As sectors double down in their efforts, Finish Business on this trajectory has conditionally approved a recycling and reuse investment grant of over €12 million for biotech startup Enifer to be deployed as its first commercial-scale PEKILO mycoprotein ingredient factory.
The latest round saw funding from the European Union NextGenerationEU recovery instrument. The fund will be deployed to support building first-of-its-kind industrial facilities promoting the recycling and reuse of industrial by-products and waste streams, thereby aligning with the EU’s circular economy action plan and the Sustainable Growth Programme for Finland.
Enifer’s commercial-scale factory is designed to produce unique PEKILO mycoprotein ingredients and is made using fungal fermentation. The PEKILO fermentation process is known for its long legacy – it was originally developed by Finnish forest industry engineers in the 1970s. As the world’s first commercial mycoprotein production process from 1975 to 1991, during which, it converted forest industry by-products into sustainable feed protein for the domestic market.
In the meantime, the company has relentlessly taken the original process multiple steps further and developed a foot-grade ingredient based on the original PEKILO technology. The product is a protein-and fiber-rich power with a neutral taste and color that can be used in a similar way to plant-based proteins in the food industry today. However, startup Enifer is expected to file for regulatory approval of its food-grade ingredient during the first half of 2024.
As part of the company’s effort to up its output, it has come up with a new facility that promises a production capacity of 3 million kilograms a year of sustainable, locally sourced protein – roughly equivalent to the protein content of meat from 30,000 cows but with at least 20 times lower carbon emissions and considerably lower water and land use. Currently, Enifer is undertaking basic engineering of the facility together with design and engineering company AFRY, a two-year factory project projected to cost €30 million will be built in the Uusimaa region, with a publication on the location expected in Q1’24.
‘Simo Ellilä’, CEO and Co-founder of Enifer, said: “A key objective for the original developers of PEKILO was to take this amazing source of protein to food applications. It is an absolute privilege for Enifer to be able to finally complete that mission, more than 50 years on. This plant will be a critical stepping stone to scaling the production of PEKILO as a truly universal protein source – which we aim to commercialize globally across different applications. Thanks to the unique history of PEKILO, we are able to take this giant leap from our existing pilot directly to a commercial-scale facility. We are extremely grateful for the financial support approved by Business Finland and the European Union NextGenerationEU programme, which will enable us to take this huge step in the coming year”.
Additionally, Startup Enifer currently has ongoing partnerships with big global companies in the feed and food industries, such as Skretting, the global aquafeed division of Nutreco, Valio for consumer food products, and Purina for pet food, though, Enifer did raise €11 million Series A funding in the spring of 2023.