Agrifoodtech start-up MicroHarvest has been named as winning innovator for its response to the challenge of ‘Building a net-zero food production system’ by a panel of expert judges at the 2023 BloombergNEF (BNEF) Pioneers awards.
With competition from almost 350 applications received by the BNEF, the Hamburg-and-Lisbon-based company appeared to prove its credentials amongst worldwide peers by offering a novel, scalable and competitive solution to tackling the challenge of building towards a net-zero economy. The company’s development of technology able to harness the power of microorganisms to produce nutritious and sustainable protein was judged against three criteria: its potential impact on greenhouse gas emissions and environmental sustainability, its degree of technology innovation and novelty, and its likelihood of adoption and potential scalability. MicroHarvest’s highly efficient protein production process suitably impressed the judges, earning the company its place alongside a prestigious group of Pioneer awards alumni.
The proprietary technology – based on biomass fermentation – is said to enable production at a speed and efficiency that far exceeds other existing approaches. The result is quality protein ingredients containing over 60% raw protein, that can be produced within 24 hours from input to output. Possible applications along the whole protein value chain are manifold, ranging from animal feed to direct application in food and pet food.
The company operates within the accelerating segment of fermentation-enabled alternative protein that attracted $3.69Bn investment in the last decade, with a 37% increase in Europe in 2022. Aside from the booming alternative protein market for human food, MicroHarvest ingredients will also serve a pet food market estimated to grow to over $130Bn by 2030 – and a $62Bn aquafeed market.
Katelijne Bekers, MicroHarvest Co-Founder & CEO, commented on the announcement: “To be awarded this prestigious Pioneers prize by the BNEF amongst such impressive competition is something that we’re extremely proud of. The MicroHarvest team have made significant progress in overcoming the challenges associated with scaling biotechnological processes. We’re developing technology that fuels the resilient food system of tomorrow producing the nutritious and sustainable protein ingredients that the world will need in a very near future. We have already successfully completed a production trial at scale within our first two years, which is an exceptional speed in the fermentation-enabled alternative protein space. Based on our results to date, we are confident that we can marry the sustainability and scale necessary to become a champion of future protein in the B2B ingredients industry.
Claire Curry, selection committee co-chair and global head of Technology, Industry & Innovation research at BloombergNEF, stated: “The search for new climate-technology solutions has never been as urgent. Technologies under development now must scale by 2030 if they are to play a significant role in helping reach net-zero emissions by 2050. Over the past three cycles of the Pioneers competition, we have chosen to focus on innovation areas where there are particularly large decarbonization hurdles. My belief is that our 2023 winners have the technology edge, the talent and the right support systems to play a significant role in overcoming the hurdles in scaling green hydrogen, producing sustainable metals at scale and in decarbonizing our food production system. We have now had 141 Pioneers winners since 2010, many of which have played an essential role in the energy and climate transition since their win. I look forward to seeing our 2023 winners do the same in the next decade.”