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Aqua-Spark invests in innovative microalgae firm

The Fish Site
by The Fish Site
7 April 2022, at 8:51am

Kuehnle AgroSystems (KAS), whose patented process produces affordable, sustainable natural astaxanthin from algae for the salmon, shrimp and human nutraceutical sectors, has closed a series A funding round with Aqua-Spark.

The KAS team
The KAS team

As the original fund for sustainable aquaculture, Aqua-Spark is investing significant resources to support the transfer of KAS' pioneering technology to industrial scale. Prior to Aqua-Spark investing, KAS participated in an accelerator programme through Hatch, another investment within Aqua-Spark's portfolio.

As an algae strain and ingredients development company, KAS has patented a novel platform process for the sustainable fermentation production of multiple economically relevant algae. For their lead product, this process is combined with KAS' unique non-GM strain of Haematococcus pluvialis to enable KAS to produce high levels of natural astaxanthin, affordably and at scale.

Astaxanthin is commonly used as a pigment and antioxidant in aquafeed for salmonids and shrimp, and as a highly potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory with many documented health benefits in human nutraceuticals. These markets combined are estimated to be valued at around $1 billion per annum.

Among pipeline products enabled by KAS' patent is a source of highly nutritious human protein and essential fatty acids from Chlamydomonas algae.

Dr Heidi Kuehnle, co-inventor of the technology, CTO and co-founder of KAS, said: "This pivotal technology has the potential to revolutionize algae production for pigments and protein by not only slashing operational cost, cropping time, and water footprint today but with the potential in the future for recycling the gas generated during fermentation to produce feedstock to be fed back into the fermentation process."

KAS produces natural astaxanthin
KAS produces natural astaxanthin

Dr Claude Kaplan, CEO of KAS, added: "KAS have been working on the development and commercialisation of our algal natural astaxanthin for over five years. With Aqua-Spark coming on board, we can now fully exploit the opportunity to bring our novel, affordable, sustainably produced astaxanthin to the salmon and shrimp markets and, ultimately, replace synthetic astaxanthin. We are extremely excited to work with Aqua-Spark, and their other portfolio companies, and to be able to tap into their vast expertise and networks as we look to bring our aquafeed and nutraceutical products to market in 2022."

Aqua-Spark's mission is to transform the global aquaculture industry into one that is healthier, more sustainable, and more accessible. In the wild, salmonids and shrimp consume astaxanthin from plankton and zooplankton, which gives them the antioxidants they need to thrive and enhances their pigmentation to produce an appealing pink colour. To ensure farmed salmonids develop a colour similar to wild salmon, astaxanthin alternatives are used as a feed additive. Synthetic astaxanthin, which is produced from petroleum sources, is the most common additive but there is a market for natural astaxanthin. Due to a more efficient manufacturing process and its natural chemistry, KAS's product will be a much more affordable and customer-preferred source of natural astaxanthin.

Mike Velings and Amy Novogratz, co-founders of Aqua-Spark, said: "We're excited to welcome KAS to our portfolio because we believe producing salmonids fed with natural astaxanthin will not only improve their health but also help to shift consumer perception of the farmed species. KAS is poised to have a valuable impact on the sustainable farming of salmonids, by making natural astaxanthin more affordable for farmers who already use it, and by encouraging more farmers who use synthetic astaxanthin to switch to the natural variant."