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Vienna-based Arkeon Biotechnologies has announced the closure of an oversubscribed seed round. The startup secured more than $7 million in the raise, which Square One Foods, Synthesis Capital and ReGen Ventures participated in. Investment will be diverted to significant scaling-up of CO2-derived protein production capacity, continued process engineering and commercial product development.
Arkeon claims to be the world’s first company using gas fermentation alongside ancient microorganisms called archaea for food applications. The result is a protein product that contains all 20 amino acids necessary for human nutrition. It represents Arkeon’s 12-year-stong mission to develop the most sustainable, nutritionally complete and democratic food system possible.
Creating customisable proteins
Archaea are said to be highly efficient microorganisms, capable of producing viable and variable proteins. Able to withstand extreme conditions, they lend themselves to biotech easily. The technology developed by Arkeon allows the archaea to naturally produce all the necessary building blocks of proteins in one fermentation cycle. The process is entirely non-dependent on land, animals or location, marking the potential end of traditional agriculture and a food system free from crop dependencies.
“For the first time in history, we can turn the equation of modern food production upside down and turn a resource-intensive industry into a sustainable, low-emission system”, Dr Gregor Tegl, co-founder and managing director of Arkeon, said in a statement. The low emission claim stems from the gas fermentation process consuming more CO2 than it produces, thereby making it carbon neutral.
An animal-free future
All variations of Arkeon’s amino acids and proteins are vegan, non-GMO and eligible for clean-label marketing. Future plans appear to centre around them being supplied on a B2B basis for adding to a variety of food and drinks. Cultivated meat cell culture media are cited as a possibility, laying foundations for a foray into the burgeoning sector. This is a potential area of ‘future foods’ that will be investigated following the new funding.
“We are proud to partner with experienced investors who strongly believe in our vision to produce the next generation of protein ingredients just from CO2,” Tegl said in a statement.
Arkeon was supported in its inception by EVIG Group, a Berlin-based company builder specialising in biotech food startups that seek to remove animals from the global food system.
Converting CO2 into consumer goods
CO2 is proving to be a commercially viable building block. The Air Company, based in New York, has developed an entire range of items, including vodka and perfume, using carbon dioxide captured from the air. The company has ambitions to keep diversifying, with jet fuel and sugar both cited as future projects.
Back in the protein sector, Finland’s Solar Foods recently secured €10 million for its own ”thin air” protein development, dubbed Solein. Having successfully developed vegan clean-label meat products, the startup is looking to complete construction of a new production facility, to support commercial launch in 2023. Microbes, electricity and captured CO2 are used to produce protein building blocks, which can then be customised for a variety of applications. Solar claims to have already made 20 alt-meat products with its proprietary Solein.
Even the fashion industry is looking to use carbon in new ways. Last year it was announced that Zara had launched a capsule collection of black dresses, made from carbon emissions. The range was made possible by a partnership with LanzaTech, which uses biological processes to capture carbon emissions before converting them, via fermentation, into workable polyester yarn.
Lead photo of Arkeon founders Dr Guenther Bochmann, Dr Simon Rittman and Dr Gregor Tegl. All photos by Arkeon Biotechnologies.