Provectus Algae secures $11.4m to scale sustainable synthetic biology biomanufacturing platform

By Elizabeth Crawford

- Last updated on GMT

Source: Provectus Algae
Source: Provectus Algae

Related tags Algae

With an infusion of $11.4 million in pre-series A funding announced today, Australian startup Provectus Algae is ready to rapidly scale the commercial production capacity of its sustainable and “complementary” biomanufacturing platform that leverages algae to develop a wide range of high-value ingredients, including a high-performance blood red colorant for the alternative protein market.

The fundraise, co-led by Hitachi Ventures and Vectr Ventures with additional support from Possible Ventures, Acequia Capital and others, also will allow the industry-leading company to meet rising demand for other specialty ingredients ranging from food flavorings and additional colorings to binding agents, sweeteners and more, CEO Nusqe Spanton told FoodNavigator-USA.

“We want to be the most innovative specialty ingredients manufacturer in the world,”​ and to that end “we’ve been working very hard over the last couple of years to validate the technology, and now we’re really at a stage of rapid expansion,”​ Spanton added.

He explained that since the company launched in 2018, it has developed and leveraged a 20,000-liter pilot facility of closed system automated bioreactors that use photosynthetic algae as a platform to grow high-value compounds with a series of LED lights.

“Essentially, we take carbon dioxide and light and convert that into a specialty ingredient,”​ Spanton said.

To do this, he explained, “there’s a huge amount of software and hardware that goes behind those systems to make them a completely automated, cloud enabled platform that we can run and manage from anywhere in the world. And the beauty about the platform is that”​ it can develop solutions from small- to industrial-scale and address a range of pain points across the food and beverage sector, agriculture, pharmaceutical and any other market vertical, Spanton said.

As such, he added, the company is an end-to-end supply chain solution for bio manufacturing that is complementary – rather than competitive to – other fermentation or bacteria and yeast production systems.

“We have the ability to produce thousands of products that those platforms can’t,”​ because unlike other synthetic biology companies, Provectus doesn’t rely on brute force, but rather finding the microbe with the biology necessary to easily produce the desired end product, Spanton explained.

He noted that the company can quickly scan and choose from thousands of algae species – all of which produce different chemical compounds and offer different solutions – and then scale production without ever-changing the hardware or software of its system.

In the rare cases when the company can’t find an algae that will naturally produce the target, Spanton says Provectus only has to manipulate “one or two tiny things” to produce the desired outcome​.

The success of Provectus Algae’s 20,000 pilot, which demonstrated how the company’s technology is completely modular and also extremely scalable, paved the way for the construction of a much larger 200,000 liter facility. Already halfway built, today’s fundraise will accelerate construction, and by extension, the production of the company’s trailblazing ingredient solutions.

New facility will accelerate production of high-demand red colorant

As the new 200,000 liter facility comes online with help from the fundraise, Provectus Algae will be able to accelerate production by potentially tenfold within 12 months of its lead product – a blood-red coloring to be used in the alternative protein space.

“There are limited products that can supply the market with high-performance blood-red coloring,”​ Spanton said. “So, this product that we’ve produced is a completely natural algae … and it is formulated in a way that gives significant high performance when cooking,”​ including turning from red to gray like real blood​ and provide a “nice crispy texture on the outside as well.”

The increased production capabilities will help Provectus Algae meet the fast-growing demand for more realistic plant-based protein and cellular agriculture, which currently produces cells that are white or opaque, rather than the more familiar-looking red.

Advancing a second ‘early stage’ animal health solution

When the new larger facility comes online, the pilot facility will be freed up to help develop a second “early stage” product targeting the animal health space.

Still in the early stage of regulatory development, this ingredient’s therapeutic benefits will help potentially bring endangered species into an aquaculture setting where they have never been produced before, as well as support other veterinary uses, Spanton explained.

Farther in the future, Provectus will develop a range of other specialty ingredients that will support companies across industries and categories as they navigate multiple pain points ranging from sourcing specialty ingredients given current supply chain challenges to converting synthetics to naturals and improving the sustainability of production, Spanton said.

“All of that sounds like a dream,”​ Spanton joked, but he emphasized, “it’s actually happening at this moment.”

Hitachi Venture’s ‘bespoke’ technologies can fast-track Provectus’ goals

Helping to make this dream come true is Provectus’ investor Hitachi Ventures, which Spanton described as a “fantastic”​ partner that brings more than just the capital in today’s fundraise. It also brings access to additional environmentally sustainable technologies and expertise in good manufacturing practice compliant manufacturing facilities.

“They are bringing a lot of technology capabilities and commercialization capabilities to the table, so we are really excited to engage with them, and we see partnerships in multiple divisions of Hitachi [Venture]’s parent company – not the smallest of which is the ability to expedite our manufacturing capabilities”​ as a well-known global leader in large-scale GMP manufacturing for pharmaceuticals and the food sector, Spanton said.

He also noted Hitachi Venture's capabilities: “a whole range of areas from cloud computing to bespoke technologies like microscopy and other technologies that are used in the pharmaceutical sector,”​ and which complement Provectus’ existing technology.

“I think Hitachi [Ventures] is also really excited to be backing us as well,”​ Spanton added, noting the partnership is “really synergistic with their mission to really drive the environmental sustainable production systems of the future.”

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