Founded in 2021, MicroHarvest makes an alternative protein by fermenting bacteria using feedstock derived from agricultural byproducts and drying it into a powder that can then be mixed with other ingredients. It claims its process can be completed in a matter of hours and that its product reduces land use by 99% and CO2 emissions by more than 70% relative to beef production. It offers protein solutions applicable across feed, pet food, and food.
The startup said its new pilot facility marks a critical milestone towards commercialization, allowing for prototype production and the testing of production runs, with the company also confirming a partnership with a contract manufacturer.
MicroHarvest’s next goal is the commercial launch of its first product in early 2024.
The company transformed a portion of its office space in Lisbon, Portugal into a fully equipped laboratory and pilot plant. The unit will produce protein samples for customers, allowing the developer to further hone the technology and test production runs before bringing them to commercial scale.
Katelijne Bekers, CEO of MicroHarvest, commented: "Within just six months of opening our Lisbon office, our team has doubled in size, and we've achieved an impressive feat by constructing the pilot plant in record time. Within the next three months, we are on track to introduce our first product to the market. These milestones underscore our commitment to driving real impact by bringing commercially competitive, consistent, and sustainable ingredients to market fast."
Luísa Cruz, the company’s CTO, said the pilot plant serves as tangible evidence of the scalability of the company’s process. “With a lower investment when compared to alternative technologies, and within a mere 200 square meters, we can achieve a daily production of 25kg."
After successfully closing a €8.5m (US$9.3m) Series A financing round in September 2022, led by Astanor Ventures, FoodLabs, Happiness Capital and Faber, May this year saw MicroHarvest raise €1.5m from new investment partner Simon Capital, bringing total funding for the start-up to over €10m.
And in April 2023, it was selected as a winner in the 2023 BloombergNEF (BNEF) Pioneers awards, which recognize early-stage companies working to introduce technologies and products that can push the world to a net-zero global economy.
Shrimp feed, pet food focus
The startup recently conducted tests on shrimp feed, which it said yielded encouraging results.
Bekers told FeedNavigator previously that the startup has also seen strong interest from pet food manufacturers in its microbial protein. “The pet food industry is one that we strongly believe in and where we think MicroHarvest can truly drive impact.”
As well as working towards commercialization milestones, and continuing to probe the scalability of its processes, the company is moving forward on the regulatory aspects with a view to bringing its product to market as soon as possible, she said.