eniferBio raises €11 million to make planet-friendly fungal protein from the by-products of food and agricultural processes
The Finnish biotech startup, eniferBio, has successfully raised an €11 million series A funding round. The round was led by the Netherlands-based global aquaculture investment fund, Aqua-Spark, with Tesi (Finnish Industry Investment) and Valio, Voima Ventures and Nordic Foodtech VC also joining the round. With the freshly raised funding, the company will begin to scale up the production of its PEKILO mycoprotein powder to thousands of tons a year and seek Novel Food approval from the EU and other markets.
PEKILO is a fungus that, through a special fermentation process, can produce a dried powder rich in protein and has a vast variety of usage cases, such as pet food and aquafeed. The process was originally developed by forestry industry scientists in the 1960s in Finland to produce cost-efficient animal feed protein from side streams of the pulp and paper industry.
Using the same, yet enhanced, proprietary technology and fermentation process, eniferBio can upcycle by-products from diverse agri-, food- and forest industry processes into its PEKILO mycoprotein, which consists of up to 70% protein, 20-30% of good-quality fiber, about 10% of fats and minerals, and has a high concentration of vitamin B. The production process is efficient, uses very little water, doesn’t require large land areas and does not cause eutrophication like traditional agriculture.
“We are extremely excited to have our new investors Aqua-Spark, Tesi, and Valio join us on our mission to feed the world with sustainable protein," said Simo Ellilä, CEO & Co-founder of eniferBio (pictured). "Together they put a huge amount of new sector-specific know-how and networks at our disposal. We’re also glad to see our long-term backers Nordic Foodtech VC and Voima Ventures double down on their bets and show their continued support for our vision.”
According to Statista, humans consumed 160 million metric tons of farmed and wild fish in 2021. Aquaculture production has overtaken the wild fish catch and is the most rapidly expanding food production sector, requiring huge amounts of new high-quality protein feeds. Soy has become a common feed ingredient, with Brazilian soybean production increasing and estimated to reach 152 million tons in 2021/2022. By comparison, PEKILO mycoprotein has a lower carbon footprint than soybean, offering a sustainable alternative for the European market that is currently heavily reliant on imported soybeans.
“We are very excited to work with eniferBio to scale PEKILO as a positive ingredient in the sustainable aquaculture feed of the future,” added Lissy Smit, CEO of Aqua-Spark. “Greening aquaculture feed by eliminating our reliance on wild ingredients and reducing our footprint is one of our biggest priorities in getting to a more sustainable aquaculture industry. EniferBio’s alternative feed ingredient serves as a replacement for soy in aquafeed. It significantly reduces land and water usage. Furthermore, early trials suggest that it has the potential to improve growth performance and immune response in fish.”
eniferBio already has ongoing partnerships with big global companies in the feed and food industries, such as Skretting, the global aquafeed division of Nutreco, Purina for pet food, and Valio for consumer food products. Its next big phase includes developing products fit for consumers through collaboration with Valio, a brand leader in Finland and a major player in the international dairy ingredients market.
“New plant-based sources of protein are gaining interest among consumers and demand is growing worldwide," stated Tuomas Salusjärvi, Executive Vice President, Growth Businesses and R&D at Valio. "In addition to traditional food production, we also need new ways of producing food that promote the circular economy. eniferBio is a cutting-edge research company that has developed new ways of utilising the food industry’s side streams in the production of protein. We want to strengthen our cooperation and be involved in developing new ways of producing food to meet the growing global demand for food.”
“Production of alternative protein sources has been estimated to have the best positive climate impact in relation to the invested capital," commented Jan-Patrick Haikkola, Investment Manager at Tesi. “The company is on the forefront of local foodtech startups, and it possesses a verified technology, which the team has managed to commercialize. The company is a fine addition to Tesi’s portfolio regarding sustainable food production.”
Now, almost three years after the company spun out from VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, eniferBio is ready to scale up its operations by building industrial production plants and applying for permission to spread mycoprotein usage into new products and markets.
“We have a product that turns today's waste into a high-value ingredient," Ellilä concluded. "We can provide the world’s most competitive protein production process and a product that has been tested on an industrial scale for over 15 years. We are now ready for the next phase of scaling our production and product use cases.”
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