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Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Finnish biotech scaleup nets €36M to tackle global protein shortage with mycoprotein innovation

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Espoo-based mycoprotein company Enifer has secured €36M in funding to build a €33M factory in Kirkkonummi, Finland, to produce its sustainable PEKILO® fungi-based protein. The funding round includes €15M from Taaleri Bioindustry Fund I, Nordic Foodtech VC, Voima Ventures, Valio, and Laine Holding, along with a €7M loan from the Finnish Climate Fund and a €2M loan from Finnvera, plus a €12M grant from Business Finland. Enifer, which transforms food industry by-products into protein, will use the funds to construct the factory, set to produce up to 3,000 tons of mycoprotein annually.

The factory will convert food industry side streams into Enifer’s sustainable PEKILO® fungi-based protein ingredients. The plant will be the world’s first commercial plant to produce such a mycoprotein ingredient from sidestream raw materials.

The factory will produce up to 3,000 tons of PEKILO® a year, which is enough to cover the annual protein needs of approximately 40,000 people. The production of PEKILO® mycoprotein has a low carbon footprint and requires minimal land and water, making it a very sustainable alternative to animal and plant proteins.

The new funding package comprises a new €15M Series B equity funding round led by the Finnish private equity fund Taaleri Bioindustry Fund I, with follow-on investments from existing shareholders Nordic Foodtech VC, Voima Ventures, Valio, and Laine Holding. This funding is complemented by the Finnish Climate Fund, which has extended a €7M capital loan to support the project and a €2M Climate and Environmental Loan provided by Finnvera. This funding comes on top of the previously reported €12M recycling and reuse investment grant from Business Finland, making the factory fully funded.

“We are very happy to start cooperation with Enifer. We believe that there is an increased need for alternative proteins as the global population grows. Demand is also supported globally by environmental and ethical considerations. Taaleri Bioindustry Fund I’s investment enables commercial scale production. We are confident in Enifer’s opportunities to expand,” comments Tero Saarno, Managing Director, Taaleri Bioindustry.

“The world’s population and the need for protein are growing. Food production is – even at the level of technologies that can already be scaled – an unsolved key part of the climate challenge. In the future, sustainable food production will be based on several different solutions and the demand for new types of proteins is predicted to grow significantly over the next decade. Enifer’s already tested technology is interesting as the nutrients of various side streams can be upcycled and their processing value increased instead of energy use,” the Finnish Climate Fund’s acting CEO Toni Mikkonen describes the funding decision.

The factory will be built as a brownfield project within an existing industrial building in Kantvik, Kirkkonummi, Finland. The site bordering the Baltic Sea is only a 30-minute drive from Helsinki city center and Enifer’s existing R&D facilities. The site also offers the upcoming factory with all the required utilities, including steam, electricity, process and cooling water, and waste-water treatment. The factory will begin ramping up operations in 2026, and once it is at full capacity, it will produce 500 kilograms per hour of mycoprotein.

PEKILO® mycoprotein is produced by cultivating a specific species of fungus in a fermentation process that is not too distinct from brewing beer or making soy sauce. The produced PEKILO® mycoprotein powder contains a lot of high-quality protein and fiber. It is also neutral in color and taste, making it an excellent source of nutrition in the most diverse food applications. Enifer and its partners have already demonstrated its use across meat and dairy alternatives, baking, pastries and snacks.

At its core, the factory will harbor a full-sized industrial fermenter, standing more than 12 meters tall and measuring more than 4.5 meters in diameter, in which the PEKILO® mycoprotein is grown. The factory will directly employ some 15 people during regular operations and more than twice this number during construction and commissioning.

The PEKILO® fermentation process was originally developed in Finland in the 1970s and used to upcycle forest industry side streams into feed-grade mycoprotein. Enifer has breathed new life into this unique innovation, adapting it to new raw material streams from food and agricultural industries and developing a food-grade version of the mycoprotein ingredient.

The company will file for Novel Foods approval of the novel ingredient in 2024 and expects to receive approval during 2026.

“At Enifer, we’re extremely excited to announce the kick-off of our first factory investment project. For over half a century, Kantvik has been at the heart of Finnish bioindustries, and I could not think of a better location to bring PEKILO® fermentation back to life. I would like to thank our new investors, in particular Taaleri Bioindustry and the Finnish Climate Fund, for joining us in our mission. Mycoprotein is the missing ingredient for a more sustainable food chain – the facility in Kantvik serves as a key steppingstone on our path to making mycoprotein a cornerstone of protein supply, with several future factories already being planned,” says Simo Ellilä, CEO and co-founder of Enifer.

Click to read more funding news.

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Jan Ameri
Jan Ameri
Entrepreneur-by-heart – and by actions since 1998. Being an expert in spotting new opportunities and creating new concepts, Jan has been a partner or co-founder in seven different companies in various industries. In the early 2000’s he was pioneering some of the very first WAP, SMS, and interactive TV based wireless games and fantasy sports games in the Nordic countries. Jan loves to watch Shark Tank and The Profit in his free time. And he is an FC Barcelona fan.

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