Get to know Chris Behrens, Senior Process Engineer at Calysta
What drew you to your role at Calysta?
In short, I was impressed by the strength of the Calysta process. Calysta has substantial potential to make a considerable difference in the way that we produce protein for feed and food. The ability to turn gas into proteins, with hardly any water or land use is remarkable, and I genuinely believe the process will solve some of the environmental challenges that we face today, and obviously, I’m excited to part of that solution. Having worked in glucose fermentations previously, which can be prone to effects of climate change, turning gas into protein certainly makes more sense.
How did you get started in the industry? What did you study and what was your first job?
I started as an apprentice with ICI Biological Products in 1986, this exposed me to all sorts of fermentations and downstream technologies- it gave me a solid introduction to a wide range of fermentation processing techniques.
What have been your highlights or proudest achievements whilst working at Calysta?
Calysta has a small but mighty team, and we’re growing at a fast pace. My proudest moments centre around the teamwork within Calysta to get us to a point where we have our first commercial plant, commissioned in China – it will produce 20,000 tonnes of FeedKind® Aqua protein annually.
Tell us more about your experience working on the new FeedKind plant in China, especially working within COVID-19 restrictions?
I am writing this from the airport in Amsterdam, preparing to leave for China for the second time, where I will be working on-site for the next couple of months. My role is to support the team in China with successful commissioning of the new plant, using my experience in fermentation and downstream processing.
Due to COVID-19, my first trip to China was very difficult. I had a total of 21 days in quarantine isolation, with a very strict testing protocol. Fortunately, this has been relaxed for my second trip – with isolation reduced to 10 days.
The new FeedKind site is near the mega city of Chongqing, located in a sub-tropical region of China. I was very impressed at how green the city was and how beautiful the surrounding mountains are, with lush green vegetation.
The site is very impressive and well run; the team in China managed to construct the site on time and to a very high standard – an amazing achievement considering the constraints of the pandemic. To top it off, everyone has been amazingly friendly and welcoming to me.
What are your passions or hobbies outside of work?
Sport has always been a big part of my life, I particularly enjoyed running and playing football, but due to various sporting injuries, I have recently taken up hiking and boxing training (non-contact).
If you were stuck on a desert island and could only have with you one book, one movie and one song, what would they be?
This is a difficult question to answer, as variety is the spice of life!
Book: The Lord of the Rings, Movie: Avatar, Song: Oasis – Don’t Look Back In Anger
Do you have any advice for people wanting to pursue a career in food technology or biotechnology?
Qualifications are essential. Study hard, take a real interest in the industry and ensure that you grab every opportunity presented to you. My chemical engineering degree has given me the most opportunities, including becoming an Engineering Manager for a large-scale fermentation production facility, the role of Commissioning Manager on fermentation and downstream processing plants and eventually the Senior Process Engineering role at Calysta.