Research • Educate • Connect
Towards a sustainable bioeconomy

Research • Educate • Connect
Towards a sustainable bioeconomy
BOOST FUND 2.0 project NextVegOil

Production of a sustainable and tailor-made microbial palm oil substitute from agricultural residues

@ foto: oneVillage Initiative, CC BY-SA 2.0


In the food industry, vegetable oils, such as palm oil, are used in large quantities. The origin of palm oil is often critically evaluated, since high CO2 emissions are caused by the slash-and-burn clearing of tropical rainforests as well as the transport of the oil to Germany. Therefore, we aim to produce a microbial palm oil substitute from the agricultural waste stream corn stover. Biomass degrading strains of the fungal chassis Ustilago maydis established in earlier BioSC projects will be further developed for the production of the customized oil, as this microorganism is able to utilize a variety of different complex substrates (e.g. hemicellulose) and an engineered variant from glycolipid studies already produces 79% oil/cell dry weight without any optimization towards oil production. Remarkably, the composition of the produced microbial oil matches closely the composition of palm oil. Both by genetic modification of U. maydis and by adjusting the cultivation parameters, the fatty acid profile of the microbial oil can be varied. Thus, depending on the requirements of the application, a palm oil substitute with an accordingly tailored fatty acid profile can be produced. Hence, the microbial oil is qualitatively even more valuable than conventional palm oil, which naturally has a certain variation in the fatty acid profile. As an application example, this project focusses on synthesis of a customized palm oil substitute for the production of vegan dairy products such as vegan cheese. By adapting the fatty acid profile, the milk fat will be substituted even better than with conventional palm oil, which is currently used. The product will be tested by our industrial partner, the start-up Formo, for the production of vegan cheese. The potential of this concept is particularly high, because on the one hand the national bioeconomy is promoted by a new product with a huge market volume and on the other hand a new value adding concept for waste streams of agricultural companies is created.

BOOST FUND 2.0 Coordinator

Dr. Marcel Mann
AVT - Biochemical Engineering
RWTH Aachen



Prof. Dr. Pauly & Dr. Vicente Ramirez, Plant Cell and Biotechnology, HHU Düsseldorf
Prof. Dr. Feldbrügge & Dr. Kerstin Schipper, Mikrobiology, HHU Düsseldorf
Prof. Dr. Büchs & Dr. Kira Kauffmann, AVT - Biochemical Engineering, RWTH Aachen
Prof. Dr. Bröring, ILR - Technology and Innovation Management in Agribusiness, University of Bonn


Funding period

01.06.2022 - 31.05.2025



NextVegOil is part of the NRW-Strategieprojekt BioSC and thus funded by the Ministry of Culture and Science of the German State of North Rhine-Westphalia.



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Wang, S, Robertz, S, Seven, M, Kraemer, F, Kuhn, BM, Liu, L, Lunde, C, Pauly, M and Ramírez, V (2023). A large-scale forward genetic screen for maize mutants with altered lignocellulosic properties. Front Plant Sci 14: 1099009.