Finnish biotech startup Onego Bio has just raised €10 million for its development of animal-free proteins. Agronomics Ltd and Maki VC participated in the funding.
Founded in 2022, the Onego Bio is a VTT spin-off that is using tech to produce bioalbumen with cellular agriculture means. What is bioalbumen I hear you ask?
Bioalbumen is an animal-free egg protein, produced with a specific fermentation process that creates an identical egg with protein without the need for animals.
Maija Itkonen, CEO of Onego Bio commented: “We have a big mission: We want to rethink eggs and give people access to a delicious healthy animal-free alternative. Egg white is a smart starting point for the next level proteins. Because of its unique functional properties like gelling, foaming, binding and emulsifying, the egg white is extremely difficult to replace with alternative ingredients. In many applications, egg is the last frontier before entirely animal-free end products can be manufactured”.
Global egg production has almost doubled its volumes during the past 20 years and is forecasted to reach 138 million tonnes by 2030. At the same time, demand for animal-free alternatives is booming. Plant-based is the new norm in dietary culture as intensive animal farming is being shown to cause environmental challenges – such as the excessive use of land, greenhouse gas emissions, water scarcity, and the risk of global pandemics.
Onego Bio’s team developed a safe, sustainable and cost-effective cellular agriculture method for producing ovalbumin, the most abundant egg white protein. This biotech process, based on harnessing the microflora Trichoderma reesei for protein production, with the help of water, sugar and certain minerals, can provide significant environmental improvements to egg white production. The team believes the chosen technology is superior because of its efficiency and productivity.
Think of like making beer, where a microorganism is fed sugar to make alcohol.
The young startup will focus on building its pilot production in Finland during the coming years and acquiring the necessary commercial approvals for its first product, animal-free bioalbumen powder. Then, the company wants to take the product global.
Onego Bio aims to market the product as a food ingredient for the bakery and confectionary industry, as well as a protein supplement for fitness products and later enter the consumer market with its own branded products for baking and cooking.
It is forecasted that food production based on cellular agriculture will lead to a disruptive change in the entire food system. The technology would not just have a positive impact on environmental issues but also reduce exposure to antibiotics, and contribute to global health by preventing infectious diseases, such as bird flu, from transferring to humans
Maija Itkonen, CEO of Onego Bio added: “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. 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.”