Solid State Fermentation vs. Submerged Fermentation

What's the Difference?

Solid state fermentation (SSF) and submerged fermentation (SmF) are two different methods used in the production of various products through microbial fermentation. In SSF, the fermentation process takes place on a solid substrate, such as agricultural waste or natural materials, with minimal or no free water. The microorganisms grow on the surface of the solid substrate, utilizing the nutrients present. On the other hand, SmF involves the growth of microorganisms in a liquid medium, where the substrate is completely submerged. The microorganisms utilize the nutrients dissolved in the liquid medium for their growth and production of desired products. While SSF is advantageous for the utilization of low-cost substrates and production of enzymes, SmF offers better control over process parameters and is suitable for large-scale production of metabolites.


AttributeSolid State FermentationSubmerged Fermentation
DefinitionProcess where microorganisms grow on a solid substrate with limited or no free waterProcess where microorganisms grow in a liquid medium with ample free water
Water ContentLow water contentHigh water content
SubstrateUsually solid substrates like grains, sawdust, or agricultural wasteLiquid medium or submerged solid particles
Oxygen SupplyUsually limited oxygen supplyAmple oxygen supply
Heat TransferHeat transfer is limited due to low water contentHeat transfer is efficient due to high water content
Product RecoveryProduct recovery can be challenging due to the solid nature of the substrateProduct recovery is relatively easier as it is in a liquid medium
Microorganism GrowthMicroorganisms grow on the surface of the solid substrateMicroorganisms grow throughout the liquid medium
Contamination RiskLower risk of contamination due to limited water availabilityHigher risk of contamination due to ample water availability

Further Detail


Fermentation is a widely used process in various industries, including food, pharmaceuticals, and biofuels. It involves the conversion of organic compounds by microorganisms under controlled conditions. Two common types of fermentation methods are solid state fermentation (SSF) and submerged fermentation (SmF). While both methods have their advantages and disadvantages, understanding their attributes can help determine the most suitable approach for specific applications.

Definition and Process

Solid state fermentation (SSF) is a fermentation process where microorganisms grow on a solid substrate with limited or no free water. The substrate can be agricultural residues, such as wheat bran or rice husk, or synthetic materials like sawdust or cellulose. In SSF, microorganisms attach to the solid substrate and produce enzymes or metabolites, which can be harvested for various purposes.

On the other hand, submerged fermentation (SmF) is a fermentation process where microorganisms grow in a liquid medium with sufficient nutrients and aeration. The liquid medium can be water-based or contain complex ingredients like molasses or soybean meal. In SmF, microorganisms are suspended in the liquid, allowing for better mixing and mass transfer of nutrients and oxygen.

Advantages of Solid State Fermentation

1.Lower water requirement: SSF requires minimal water compared to SmF, making it more environmentally friendly and cost-effective. This attribute is particularly advantageous in regions with limited water resources.

2.Higher product concentration: SSF often leads to higher product concentrations due to the limited water availability. This can be beneficial for industries that require concentrated products, such as enzymes or organic acids.

3.Less contamination risk: The solid substrate in SSF acts as a physical barrier, reducing the risk of contamination by unwanted microorganisms. This attribute is especially valuable when working with sensitive or slow-growing microorganisms.

4.Utilization of agricultural waste: SSF provides an opportunity to utilize agricultural residues and by-products, reducing waste and promoting sustainability in the agricultural sector.

5.Enhanced flavor and aroma: SSF can enhance the flavor and aroma of certain products, such as fermented foods or beverages, due to the unique metabolic activities of microorganisms on the solid substrate.

Advantages of Submerged Fermentation

1.Better control over process parameters: SmF allows for better control over process parameters, such as temperature, pH, and oxygen supply. This control enables optimization of microbial growth and product formation, leading to higher yields and reproducibility.

2.Higher mass transfer rates: In SmF, the liquid medium facilitates efficient mass transfer of nutrients and oxygen to the microorganisms. This attribute promotes faster growth and higher productivity compared to SSF.

3.Easy scalability: SmF is easier to scale up for industrial production due to the availability of well-established equipment and processes. The liquid nature of SmF allows for better mixing and uniform distribution of microorganisms, nutrients, and oxygen.

4.Higher microbial biomass production: SmF often results in higher microbial biomass production due to the favorable growth conditions provided by the liquid medium. This attribute is advantageous in industries that require large quantities of biomass, such as the production of biofuels or microbial proteins.

5.Shorter fermentation time: SmF generally has a shorter fermentation time compared to SSF. The liquid medium allows for faster growth and metabolic activity of microorganisms, leading to quicker production cycles.


Both SSF and SmF have a wide range of applications in various industries:

  • SSF is commonly used in the production of enzymes, organic acids, bioactive compounds, and fermented foods like tempeh or miso.
  • SmF is widely employed in the production of antibiotics, pharmaceuticals, biofuels, and microbial proteins.

The choice between SSF and SmF depends on the specific requirements of the desired product, the characteristics of the microorganism, and the available resources.


Both solid state fermentation (SSF) and submerged fermentation (SmF) offer unique attributes and advantages for different applications. SSF is advantageous in terms of lower water requirement, higher product concentration, reduced contamination risk, utilization of agricultural waste, and enhanced flavor and aroma. On the other hand, SmF provides better control over process parameters, higher mass transfer rates, easy scalability, higher microbial biomass production, and shorter fermentation time.

Understanding the attributes of SSF and SmF is crucial in selecting the most suitable fermentation method for specific industries and products. By considering the desired outcomes, available resources, and characteristics of the microorganism, industries can optimize their fermentation processes and achieve efficient and sustainable production.

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