Edinburgh-based biotech start-up MiAlgae has received a seven-figure investment to focus on the commercialisation of its “revolutionary” microalgae product, which uses co-products from the whisky distillation process.
The £1 million cash injection – from parties including the Scottish Investment Bank (SIB) – comes as the firm targets the global aquaculture market, which it says is valued at $70 billion (£53bn) and set to double by 2030.
The biotech business will use the investment to double the size of its business premises, commission a demonstrator plant in East Lothian, and make five new appointments in the next 12 months.
The investment comes from previous investors in MiAlgae – Equity Gap and Old College Capital as well as the SIB, alongside quarry operator Hillhouse Group, a new investor in the business.
MiAlgae produces microalgae, which is high in omega 3 and other nutrients. The algae can be used to sustainably feed fish and create animal food, and the firm estimates that a tonne of its algae saves up to 30 tonnes of wild fish.
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It was founded in 2016 by Douglas Martin while studying Biotechnology at the University of Edinburgh. He is supported by Edinburgh Innovations, the university’s commercialisation service, which also manages Old College Capital, its venture fund.
Martin welcomed the investment meaning that MiAlgae can focus on growing the business. “We plan to target the pet food and aquaculture industries with our sustainable, ocean-friendly, algae-derived omega 3.
“I am proud that we operate as part of the circular economy where, by using a low value co-product from the whisky industry, we are creating a valuable supply of nutrients for the animal and fish food industries, thereby using the planet’s resources more efficiently. There is no doubt we will see a rapidly growing market for our product.”
Andrew Vernon of Hillhouse Group said: “MiAlgae has essentially taken a by-product from one industry and turned it into a solution for another industry… this is a very promising business indeed.”
Fraser Lusty, investment director at Equity Gap, said: “Since our last investment in MiAlgae 18 months ago, the business has achieved a great deal, designing and building its pilot plant, making its first sales to a premium dog food company, and beginning production with its first large scale tank. This is an exciting business, and one to watch over the next couple of years.”
SIB director Kerry Sharp commented “MiAlgae perfectly epitomises Scotland’s willingness to take the lead on climate-related issues.” She also said the SIB looks forward to helping the firm realise its commercial and environmental ambitions.