UK microalgae startup secures £1m in funding

By Jane Byrne contact

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/Mailson Pignata
© GettyImages/Mailson Pignata

Related tags: whisky, fermentation, Algae, Aquaculture, pet food

Edinburgh-based biotech startup, MiAlgae, has received investment of £1m (US$1.3m) in total to focus on the commercialization of its microalgae product, targeting the aquaculture and pet food sectors.

The biotech business uses co-products from the whisky distillation process to produce microalgae, which is high in omega-3 and other nutrients. 

MiAlgae said it will use the investment to double the size of its business premises, commission a demonstrator plant in East Lothian and make five new appointments in the next 12 months.

The funding was raised from previous investors in MiAlgae including Equity Gap, Scottish Investment Bank and Old College Capital, alongside Hillhouse Group, a new investor in the business.

Fraser Lusty, investment director at Equity Gap: “Since our last investment in MiAlgae 18 months ago, the business has achieved a great deal, designing and building its pilot plant, making its first sales to a premium dog food company, and beginning production with its first large scale tank. The business now turns its focus to commercialization and scaling up. The global pet food market is worth $100bn and is growing at around 5%. MiAlgae plans to supply customers in both the pet food market and the aquaculture industry in the next 12 months.” 

MiAlgae estimates that one ton of its algae saves up to 30 tons of wild fish.

mialgae team today
Andrew Vernon of Hillhouse Group said: “MiAlgae has essentially taken a by-product from one industry and turned it into a solution for another industry. Through the application of biotechnology, MiAlgae is finding solutions to feed the world’s population, and with the global aquaculture industry set to double in size in the next ten years, this is a very promising business indeed.” © MiAlgae

Background

MiAlgae was founded by Douglas Martin in 2016 while studying biotechnology at the University of Edinburgh. He is supported by Edinburgh Innovations, the University’s commercialization service, which also manages Old College Capital, the University’s venture fund.

The production model is based on cultivating nutrient rich microalgae in giant stainless steel tanks using wastewater from the local whisky industry.  

Martin told this publication previously​ that 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 back then that an idea would be to also capture the excess heat from whisky production and use it in the MiAlgae fermentation process. 

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