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Chapter 13 Applications of mixed microbial cultures in industrial biotechnology

Sandy Schmidt

Abstract

Microbial consortia are ubiquitously found in nature and are applied in biotechnological processes such as fermentation, waste treatment and agriculture for millennia. Those consortia consist of member organisms that are together more robust to environmental changes, exhibit reduced metabolic burden, possess expanded metabolic capabilities compared to monocultures and communicate between species. Those unique strengths of microbial consortia make them an attractive production platform for many biotechnological applications. Moreover, mixed cultures of autotrophic and heterotrophic microorganisms open up the possibility to combine the strengths of both; the autotrophic metabolism promoting a sustainable and green bioeconomy with the efficiency of high-performing heterotrophs to manufacture high-value added products. As a result, the field of mixed culture biotechnology has significantly developed and expanded toward the engineering of microbial consortia to expand the scope of possible applications. This chapter provides an outline of the recent developments in mixed culture biotechnology highlighting several examples of mixed cultures used for the production of diverse products. Furthermore, insights into the type of interactions observed in microbial consortia and current limitations associated with these bioproduction systems are discussed.

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