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Enifer Raises €36 Million to Scale Mycoprotein Production in Finland

Courtesy: Enifer
Courtesy: Enifer

Enifer, a Finnish biotech company, has secured €36 million (US$39 million) to construct a food-grade mycoprotein factory in Kirkkonummi, Finland. This ambitious project aims to convert food industry side streams into Enifer’s sustainable Pekilo fungi-based protein ingredients, marking a significant milestone in sustainable food production. The site is poised to be the world’s first commercial plant to produce such a mycoprotein ingredient from sidestream raw materials.


Background and Funding


The journey towards this innovative project began earlier this year when Enifer secured €12 million (US$13.1 million) in funding to kickstart the construction of its mycoprotein facility in the Uusimaa region of Finland. Building on this momentum, the latest funding round has provided Enifer with a substantial €36 million, comprising a €15 million Series B equity funding round led by Taaleri Bioindustry Fund I, follow-on investments from Nordic Foodtech VC, Voima Ventures, Valio, and Laine Holding, as well as a €7 million capital loan from the Finnish Climate Fund and a €2 million Climate and Environmental Loan from Finnvera.


Factory Specifications and Operations


The factory, projected to cost €33 million (US$35.7 million), is set to produce up to 3,000 tons of Pekilo mycoprotein annually, which is enough to meet the annual protein needs of approximately 40,000 people. The facility will house a 12-meter tall industrial fermenter with a diameter of over 4.5 meters, capable of producing 500 kilograms of mycoprotein per hour. Construction is expected to be completed by the end of next year, with operations commencing in 2026.

At Enifer, we’re extremely excited to announce the kick-off of our first factory investment project. For over half a century, Kantvik has been at the heart of Finnish bioindustries, and I could not think of a better location to bring PEKILO® fermentation back to life.  Mycoprotein is the missing ingredient for a more sustainable food chain – the facility in Kantvik serves as a key steppingstone on our path to making mycoprotein a cornerstone of protein supply, with several future factories already being planned.” Simo Ellilä, CEO Enifer

Brownfield Project and Sustainability


One of the unique aspects of the project is that it will be developed as a "brownfield project" within an existing industrial building in Kantvik, Kirkkonummi. This approach is not only cost-effective but also environmentally friendly, as it repurposes an existing structure rather than constructing a new one from scratch. The chosen location is strategically beneficial, being close to Enifer's R&D facilities and providing necessary utilities like steam, electricity, process and cooling water, and wastewater treatment.

Courtesy: Enifer
Courtesy: Enifer

Pekilo Mycoprotein: A Sustainable Solution


The Pekilo fermentation process was initially developed in Finland in the 1970s to upcycle forest industry side streams into feed-grade mycoprotein. Enifer has since adapted this innovation to new raw material streams from the food and agricultural industries, creating a food-grade version of the mycoprotein ingredient. The fermentation process, similar to brewing beer or making soy sauce, cultivates a specific species of fungus. The resulting Pekilo mycoprotein powder is rich in high-quality protein and fiber, and neutral in color and taste, making it versatile for various food applications such as meat and dairy alternatives, baking, pastries, and snacks.


Addressing Global Protein Demands


The global demand for protein is surging due to population growth and increasing health and environmental awareness. The global protein market is projected to reach USD 25.49 billion in 2024, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.93%, increasing to USD 32.42 billion by 2029. Plant-based proteins are gaining significant traction, expected to grow at 14% annually and potentially constituting up to one-third of the total protein market by 2024.


Several startups are pioneering mycoprotein and fermentation-based protein production. ENOUGH Foods in Scotland is expanding its mycoprotein production using biomass fermentation with significant funding for facility expansion. Chicago-based Nature’s Fynd uses a unique fermentation process to produce protein from a Yellowstone microbe, raising substantial capital for various applications from meat and dairy alternatives to snack bars. In Oman, MycoTechnology utilizes mushroom fermentation, having raised multiple funding rounds to expand operations focused on clean-label food products. South Africa’s MycoSure is developing sustainable mycoprotein solutions aimed at regional food security, backed by significant investments. Maia Farms in Canada uses fermentation technology to produce protein-rich ingredients, leveraging their strategic location in the Canadian Prairies. Additionally, MyForest and Mush Foods employ solid-state fermentation on trays without bioreactors, emphasizing sustainability and efficiency in protein production.


Enifer's initiative comes at a crucial time when the global demand for alternative proteins is on the rise due to population growth and increasing environmental and ethical concerns. The Finnish Climate Fund's CEO, Toni Mikkonen, highlighted that food production is a key part of the climate challenge, and sustainable food production will increasingly rely on various solutions, including novel proteins like those developed by Enifer.


"The world's population and the need for protein are growing. Food production is – even at the level of technologies that can already be scaled – an unsolved key part of the climate challenge. In the future, sustainable food production will be based on several different solutions and the demand for new types of proteins is predicted to grow significantly over the next decade.  Enifer's already tested technology is interesting as the nutrients of various side streams can be upcycled and their processing value increased instead of energy use.” Toni Mikkonen

Future Prospects


Enifer's project is a significant step towards making mycoprotein a cornerstone of the global protein supply chain. The company plans to file for Novel Foods approval for its Pekilo mycoprotein this year and expects to receive approval by 2026. This factory in Kantvik is just the beginning, with several future factories already being planned to scale up production and meet the growing demand for sustainable protein sources.


“We are very happy to start cooperation with Enifer. We believe that there is an increased need for alternative proteins as the global population grows. Demand is also supported globally by environmental and ethical considerations.” Tero Saarno, Managing Director, Taaleri Bioindustry,

Conclusion


Enifer's €36 million investment in a food-grade mycoprotein factory in Kirkkonummi, Finland, represents a pioneering effort in sustainable food production. By converting food industry side streams into high-quality protein, Enifer is setting a new standard for environmentally friendly and efficient protein production. This project not only addresses the urgent need for alternative protein sources but also exemplifies the innovative spirit of the biotech industry in creating sustainable solutions for the future.


This factory marks a significant milestone on the path to a more sustainable and resilient global food system, promising to make mycoprotein a key player in the alternative protein market.

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