Onego Bio Scoops $11.1 Million For Commercialisation Of Chickenless Fungi-Based Egg Whites
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Finnish VTT Technical Research Centre offshoot Onego Bio has closed a €10 million seed funding round. Agronomics Limited and Maki VC participated in the round, which was opened to secure funding for commercial scale-up. The startup’s ‘bioalbumen’ product is an animal-free egg white, manufactured using precision fermentation.
Onego Bio predicts a future surge in demand for animal-free egg white protein. The company cites growing environmental awareness and personal health concerns as a driving motivation for consumers to source plant-based alternatives. The new bioalbumen is fungi-based, using the Trichoderma reesei strain for protein development.
Taking animals out of the equation
Onego Bio cites global egg production as reaching 138 million tonnes per year by 2030. In a bid to reduce reliance on outmoded factory farming, the startup has developed a sustainable, food-safe and cost-comparable alternative to conventional egg whites. With a product close to being fully realised, the company is ready to scale and seek approvals.
“We want to thank VTT and our investors for supporting a technology that is part of a bigger wave of changing people’s perspective on alternative ways of producing food,” Maija Itkonen, CEO of Onego Bio said in a statement. “The time is right to spin out this technology and start manufacturing our product, as consumers are more open to try products that are not animal-derived.”
The fungi-based egg white alternative performs just like conventional options, but with less of an environmental footprint. Precision fermentation requires significantly less land, energy, and resources than that alternative of farming animals. Bioreactors replace chickens and generate egg white protein in a process similar to brewing beer.
“We are highly impressed with the Onego team’s capabilities, background, and their vision for the company, Jim Mellon, executive director of Agronomics said in a statement. “With their technology, they have the potential to produce bioalbumen at an industrial scale and at a price point that is competitive with conventional egg production which has major implications for the environment and animal welfare. Egg white production has a huge total addressable market and there is a necessity to utilize precision fermentation tools to meet the demand in a sustainable manner. We look forward to seeing what they can accomplish.”
The VTT effect
VTT is globally regarded as an expert within the CellAg sector. It founded an incubator called the VTT LaunchPad, designed to bring researchers and technology together, to disrupt existing food systems. The incubator allows teams to turn their findings into viable products and eventually, fundable companies.
Finland at the forefront
Last November, scientists at Finland’s VTT revealed they had successfully grown sustainable coffee. The team produced coffee cells in a bioreactor, with the finished product smelling and tasting identical to the real thing, according to the team. The innovation removes the need to grow, harvest, and roast conventional beans. At the time of the news breaking, the team predicted being ready to scale and sell its coffee within four years.
Most recently, Finnish food tech Solar Foods bagged €10 million to build a new production facility for its ultra sustainable protein development. Generating a food source from”thin air”, the company is seeking to become fully operational in 2023. It will create its proprietary protein, dubbed Solein, on a commercial scale.
Lead photo by Katerina Holmes from Pexels.