Whisky based algae start-up gets £1m boost

MiAlgae founder Douglas Martin

AN Edinburgh based microalgae company has secured further investment of £1 million to commercialise its whisky derived feed alternative.

Biotech start-up MiAlgae uses co-products from the whisky distillation process to produce microalgae, high in omega-3 and other nutrients.

The algae can be used to replace marine ingredients in fish feed, with one tonne of algae saving up to 30 tonnes of wild fish, according to the company.

MiAlgae 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, Scottish Investment Bank and Old College Capital, alongside Hillhouse Group, a new investor in the business.

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.

‘Through the application of biotechnology, MiAlgae is finding solutions to feed the world’s population, and with the global aquaculture industry set to double in size in the next 10 years, this is a very promising business indeed.’

MiAlgae was founded three years ago by Douglas Martin while he was studying biotechnology at the University of Edinburgh.

He is supported by Edinburgh Innovations, the university’s commercialisation service, which also manages Old College Capital, the university’s venture fund.

Martin said: ‘I am really pleased that with this investment we can turn our attention to 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.’

Kerry Sharp, director, Scottish Investment Bank, said: ‘MiAlgae perfectly epitomises Scotland’s willingness to take the lead on climate related issues.

‘By turning the by-products of manufacturing and industrial processes into a valuable resource, they and other pioneering companies like them are completely redefining the concept of waste.’

The global aquaculture market is valued at $70 billion and set to increase by 100 per cent by 2030.

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.

‘The business now turns its focus to commercialisation and scaling up. The global pet food market is worth $100 billion and growing at around five per cent.

‘MiAlgae plans to supply customers in both the pet food market and the aquacultural industry in the next 12 months. This is an exciting business, and one to watch over the next couple of years.’