Industrial biotechnology uses living organisms and isolated biological components such as enzymes to generate industrial products such as chemicals, fuels and materials. These industrial biotechnology processes usually involve microorganisms such as yeast, bacteria and algae in large-scale fermentations and production systems. Industrial biotechnology processes can also be used in the treatment of wastewater and to improve agriculture and livestock productivity.
The use of living organisms in the production of food and beverages is the most well-known and longstanding industrial application of microbes. Fermented products such as beer and wine are created through the action of yeast cultures which process the raw materials such as sugars from malted barley into ethanol. Modern industrial biotechnology processes have optimised ethanol production for use as a biofuel as well as the conversion of sugars from a range of plant biomass sources into many different industrial chemicals using optimised microbes.
Industrial biotechnology applications are diverse and broad-ranging; from creating biodegradable plastics and replacing petroleum-based feedstocks, to modifying and developing new industrial processes that have reduced environmental impacts. The industry is growing around the world and provides significant potential for Australia and Queensland to realise a strong and viable bioeconomy that provides many new manufacturing jobs; adding value to and diversifying Queensland’s world-class agriculture sector that provides the biomass raw materials. The bioeconomy provides sustainable industries that use cheap biological resources (such as waste biomass from the agriculture industry) as the raw materials for cell-based processes that help industries become more environmentally sustainable. The use of bio-based renewable resources holds great potential value across a number of sectors, including the energy, organic chemicals, polymers, fabrics and animal feed supplement industries.