Food fermenting microbes form the basis of many innovations in the food industry, and a range of ingredients are produced through fermentation, including vitamins, flavour components and texturisers. Nizo, based in The Netherlands' Food Valley, has long held its own collection of food bacteria and a technology platform to screen them for their properties. Now, however, with the addition of a subset of BCCM/LMG's bacteria store, the collection is extended to a total of 3900 different bacteria, which are open for screening. In particular, the collaboration with one of the world's biggest bacteria stores brings to Nizo and its industry clients strains of the genera Lactococcus, Lactobacillus, Leuconostoc, Bifodobacterium and Streptococcus. It includes cultures used in the production of dairy products and plant-based products - such as wine, vegetables and fruit - and probiotic bacteria strains that are recognised for their beneficial effect on immunity, gut health, and other health markets. "This is recognised by our customers and both the access to the large culture collection and the selection tools make a powerful proposition to the food industry," said Dr Johan van Hylckama Vlieg, principal scientist at Nizo. He explained to FoodNavigator.com that Nizo has several screening techniques dedicated to selecting strains bringing a specific attribute to a product - flavour and texture development, for example. The use of high throughput product model systems is key in its approach. One example is the ability to produce hundreds of 200mg cheeses, using different bacteria, and assess each one for its properties and flavour. "Genomic and functional diversity of food microbes is huge and there is a strong need to identify the genes for important traits in fermentation or probiotic activity," he said. Nizo has the full genome of ten of its own bacteria, and detailed genome maps for over a hundred more were obtained through comparative genome hybridization. Such 'biomarkers' allow the generation of intellectual property, and narrowing down is achieved by identifying co-occurrence of genes to the target activities in the strain collection. Of the collaboration, van Hylckama Vlieg said BCCM/LMG is particularly strong in bacteria storage, while Nizo's strength is in handling and selecting bacteria for the food industry. Nizo's own "treasure box" of bacteria has been developed over the last 60 years, he said, with many originating from food products. It continues to look for interesting new strains, van Hylckama Vlieg said, "and always finds them". Nizo is open to "all kinds of possible arrangements" with its food industry customers, said Nizo's communications manager Hendrik Prins. "We do what the industry needs and wants to help them come up with solutions," he said.