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Finnish biotech Enifer snaps €12M grant to build commercial mycoprotein ingredient factory

enifer founders
Picture credits: Enifer

The world is facing the challenge of doubling the protein supply by 2050 to answer the demand from the global population. Also, there is a focus on decreasing CO2 emissions from the food value chain. The production of traditional animal- and plant-based proteins cannot be doubled to meet this demand and there is an urgent for novel and innovative sources of protein.

Finnish biotech startup Enifer, a spin-off company from VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, tackles this demand. The startup just secured a €12 million investment grant from the European Union NextGenerationEU recovery instrument. This follows the €11 million Series A funding round it secured in early 2023. 

Plans to build its commercial-scale factory 

Enifer plans to build its first commercial-scale PEKILO mycoprotein ingredient factory. It will support building first-of-its-kind industrial facilities promoting the reuse and recycling of industrial by-products and waste streams. This aligns with the EU’s circular economy action plan and the Sustainable Growth Programme for Finland.

The new facility will have a production capacity of 3 million kilograms a year of sustainable, locally-sourced protein 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. The factory is currently projected to cost €30 million to build and is expected to be completed by the end of 2025 with production ramp-up occurring in 2026. 

The facility will be built in the Uusimaa region, with an announcement on the location expected during Q1/2024. The facility will be built together with design and engineering company AFRY.

PEKILO, a mycoprotein ingredient

Enifer was founded by five scientists – Anssi Rantasalo, Heikki Keskitalo, Joosu Kuivanen, Simo Ellilä, and Ville Pihlajaniemi in 2020. The aim was to dust off the art of making PEKILO fungal protein, tweak the process with the latest bioprocess gadgetry and then use it to make sustainable protein to feed the world. 

The commercial-scale factory will produce Enifer’s unique PEKILO mycoprotein ingredients, which are made using fungal fermentation. It has a vast variety of usage cases, such as pet food and aquafeed.

The fermentation process has a long legacy and was developed by the Finnish forest industry engineers in the 1970s. As the world’s first commercial mycoprotein production process, it converted forest industry by-products into sustainable feed protein for the domestic market. 

The product is a protein- and fiber-rich powder with a neutral taste and color that can be used in a similar way to plant-based proteins in the food industry today. The company is expecting to file for regulatory approval of its food-grade ingredient during the first half of 2024.

Simo Ellilä, CEO and Co-founder of Enifer said, “This plant will be a critical stepping stone to scaling the production of PEKILO as a truly universal protein source – which we aim to commercialise 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.”

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