Sophorolipids (SLs) are microbial biosurfactants with an important role in industry and a continuously growing market. This research addresses the use of sustainable resources as feedstock for bioproducts. Winterization oil cake (WOC) and molasses are suitable substrates for SLs via solid-state fermentation (SSF). The model proposed herein was established for annually processing 750 t of WOC and comparing three support materials: wheat straw (WS), rice husk (RH), and coconut fiber (CF). Production capacity ranged 325–414 t of SLs per year. Unit Production Cost was 5.1, 5.7, and 6.9 USD/kg SL for WS, RH, and CF production models, respectively, and was slightly lower with other substrates. Financial parameters were CAPEX 6.7 MM USD and OPEX 1.9 MM USD/y, with a NPV, IRR and payback time of 6.4 MM USD, 31% and 3.2 y, respectively. SLs recovery from the solid matrix was the major contributor to operating costs, while fermentation equipment shaped capital costs. Results show that the physical properties (bulk density, WHC) of substrates and supports define process costs beyond substrate purchase costs and process yields in SSF systems. To our knowledge, this is the first attempt to model SLs production via SSF at full scale for the economic valuation of the SSF process.
- solid-state fermentation
- techno-economic analysis