Animal-free egg protein startup Onego Bio is one step closer to cracking the traditional egg market | Tech Crunch

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In 2023, higher egg prices provide an opportunity for alternative protein companies to show that they can compete with traditional egg manufacturers.

A year later, prices have calmed down, but activity continues to create more sustainable egg products. Onego Bio, a Finnish food-biotech company, uses Trichoderma reesei and precision fermentation to create Bioalbumen, an animal-free egg white alternative.

In 2022 Maija Itkonen (pronounced eh-go), co-founder and CEO of Onego Bio, along with precision fermentation expert Christopher Landosky from VTT (Technical Research Center of Finland), left the company.

Onego Bio is co-founded by Maija Itkonen and Christopher Landowski. Image Credits: Onego Bio

Itkonen told TechCrunch that the company's patented fungal fermentation technology can produce 120 grams per liter in 250,000-liter fermentation vessels. With this capability, Onego Bio is close to reaching competitive prices for traditional ways of making egg proteins, she added.

Onego Bio claims that Bioalbumen is “bioidentical” to ovalbumin, the main protein found in chicken egg whites. It contains all the essential amino acids and is high in protein: 90 grams per 100 grams of egg white. Additionally, the company can produce it with a 90% smaller environmental footprint compared to chicken eggs.

Bioalbumen is engineered by the company to have a clean, neutral taste that can be used to replace eggs in a variety of foods, baked goods, snacks and sauces. The company plans to sell Bioalbumen to companies that make food products.

“What we do is different from, for example, the systems that other companies are working on,” Itkonen said. “The microorganism grows a little slower, but the productivity is much higher. So it produces a large yield and the production is very easy, requiring no special equipment. To really compete with animal products, it has to be at the same price so it all pays back.

The company will initially launch in North America. Itkonen expects Onego Bio to receive self-certified GRAS (generally recognized as safe) status for Bioalbumen this year and a no-objection letter from the US Food and Drug Administration in 2025. After that it will continue with expansion in Europe, South America and other countries. Asia.

In preparation for this, Onego Bio recently received $40 million in Series A funding to bring Bioalbumen to market and increase manufacturing capabilities. The funds will be used to grow the US commercial team and partner with co-manufacturers while finalizing its own factory. The company is nearing a single Onego full-scale manufacturing unit with a 2 million-liter fermentation capacity, which would effectively replace an egg farm with 6 million hens, Itkonen said.

Japanese-Nordic venture capital firm Nordic Ninja led the investment in partnership with equity investors Tesi and EIT Food, existing investors Agronomics, Maki.VC, Holdix and Turret and a group of strategic partners.

The round also includes $10 million in non-dilutive funding from Business Finland, a public organization under the Finnish government that supports innovation to accelerate systemic change to help solve major global challenges. Itkonen noted that Onego Bio's Series A funding is “one of the largest A-rounds in the Nordics” and brings the company's total funding to $56 million.

Nordic Ninja managing partner Tomosaku Sohara said in a statement: “Onego Bio is taking all the right steps to commercialize in record time… a clear path to industrialization, go-to-market and profitability. In less than two years, Onego is already working with major global food companies and has been demonstrated to disrupt the $330 billion egg market and create system-level change, accelerating the green transition.

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