Business Finland has conditionally approved a recycling and reuse investment grant of more than €12 million for biotech startup Enifer to build its first commercial-scale Pekilo mycoprotein ingredient factory. The funding comes from the European Union NextGenerationEU recovery instrument. It will support building first-of-its-kind industrial facilities promoting the reuse and recycling of industrial by-products and waste streams, hence aligning with the EU’s circular economy action plan and the sustainable growth programme for Finland.
So, what is Pekilo mycoprotein?
The commercial-scale factory will produce Enifer's unique Pekilo mycoprotein ingredients, which are made using fungal fermentation. The Pekilo fermentation process has a long legacy - it was originally developed by Finnish forest industry engineers in the 1970s. As the world’s first commercial mycoprotein production process from 1975 to 1991, it converted forest industry by-products into sustainable feed protein for the domestic market.
Enifer has taken the original process and developed a food-grade ingredient based on the original Pekilo technology. The product is a protein- and fibre-rich powder with a neutral taste and colour 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.
Reducing carbon emissions through fermentation
The new facility will have a production capacity of 3 million kilograms a year- which the company claims is roughly 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. Enifer is currently undertaking basic engineering of the facility together with design and engineering company AFRY. The facility will be built in the Uusimaa region, with an announcement on the location expected during Q1/2024.
Simo Ellilä, CEO and co-founder of Enifer, stated in a press release: “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.”
Enifer raised €11 million series A funding in spring 2023, and the company already has ongoing partnerships with big global companies in the feed and food industries, such as Skretting, the global aquafeed division of Nutreco, Purina for pet food, and Valio for consumer food products.