Investors lend their weight to whisky based fish feed

By Jane Byrne contact

- Last updated on GMT

© istock/Zerbor
© istock/Zerbor
MiAlgae, a student-launched startup that is targeting the farmed fish and livestock sectors with microalgae made from the co-products of whisky, has received £500,000 (US $668,748) from investors.

The company, founded by Douglas Martin while a Masters student at the University of Edinburgh in 2015-2016, grows algae said to be rich in omega-3 and other nutrients using co-products from the whisky distillation process.

The investment, in equal shares from Equity Gap, the Scottish Investment Bank, the investment arm of Scotland’s enterprise agencies, and the University of Ediinburgh's venture fund, Old College Capital, will enable the company to expand its team and build a pilot plant for its technology at a whisky distillery.

Martin said this latest investment will fund initial scale-up steps and de-risk its commercial facility. 

The synthetic biology graduate had already managed to attract private investment for the project, along with a Scottish Enterprise grant to fund one year’s worth of research and development.

Moreover, along with winning the 2018 Shell LiveWIRE Young Entrepreneur of the Year last month, he recently pitched at the final of the 2018 Scottish EDGE competition with the chance of being awarded an additional £100k of funding for the company – the awards ceremony for the competition will be held on 14 June.

Cost effective production model

MiAlgae’s model is based on cultivating nutrient rich microalgae in giant stainless steel tanks using wastewater from the local whisky industry. Omega-3 fatty acid or protein replacement in fish feed are potential targets for the finished product.

Martin told this publication last July​ the interest in the project has stemmed from the fact it offers a cost optimized microalgae production model.

“The reason that we can make it low cost is that we use nitrates and phosphates from whisky co-products to offset the nutrient costs associated with microalgal production."

The developer said then the idea would be to also capture the excess heat from whisky production and use it in the MiAlgae fermentation process.

Martin has been supported by LAUNCH.ed, the University of Edinburgh’s service for student entrepreneurs, since January 2016 when he was studying synthetic biology. That platform said it helped him to develop and launch his business, apply and pitch for grants and competitions, and connect with mentors and investors.

The developer has global ambitions for MiAlgae and sees applications for the whisky distillery derived microalgae, beyond feed.

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