MiAlgae, founded by Douglas Martin while a masters student at the University of Edinburgh in 2015-16, grows algae rich in omega-3 and other nutrients using co-products from the whisky distillation process.
The microalgae produced can be used as a raw material for agricultural food products, with the company initially targeting the aquaculture industry, whose future growth is predicted to require new sources of feed.
The investment, in equal shares from Equity Gap, the Scottish Investment Bank, the investment arm of Scotland’s enterprise agencies, and the University’s venture fund Old College Capital, will enable the company to expand its team and build a pilot plant for its technology at a whisky distillery. The £500,000 seed investment in MiAlgae follows a series of competition and funding successes.
This is a huge deal for us...This investment will fund the initial scale-up steps and de-risk our commercial facility. It certainly sets us on track to achieve our ambitions.Douglas Martin, Founder, MiAlgae
Martin obtained a Smart: Scotland grant in 2017, has progressed through the EU’s three-stage Climate-KIC Accelerator programme hosted at the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation, has had competition success including Scottish EDGE Young EDGE and Innovate UK, and was recently named Shell LiveWIRE Young Entrepreneur of the Year.
Martin recently pitched at the final of the 2018 Scottish EDGE competition with the chance of being awarded an additional £100k of funding for the company – the awards ceremony for the competition will be held on 14 June.
Kerry Sharp, head of the Scottish Investment Bank, commented: “This is an exciting new equity investment for Scottish Enterprise into a company that has utilised the circular economy to make an innovative and valuable product."
Martin has been supported by LAUNCH.ed, the University’s service for student entrepreneurs, since January 2016 when he was studying MSC Synthetic Biology and Biotechnology. LAUNCH.ed has helped him to develop and launch his business, apply and pitch for grants and competitions, and connect with mentors and investors.
Martin will be looking to expand the company’s production capacity 30-fold and will be expanding his team of two, to reach five.
Aquaculture is worth £1.8 billion a year to the Scottish economy, according to latest Scottish Government figures, but Martin’s ambition does not stop with aquaculture or Scotland.
“We’re looking at multiple industries in the supply side, multiple industries at the product side, then diversification into multiple products beyond feeds,” said Martin. “There are lots of things we can do with our products.”