• Finland’s Onego Bio, biotech startup in alternative proteins, has closed a €10M seed round led by investors Agronomics Limited and Maki VC
  • Onego Bio’s chicken-free egg whites are produced with precision fermentation and technology used to grow organic molecules such as proteins in a lab
  • Onego is a cellular agriculture spinoff from VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland which developed the tech, harnessing microflora to solve issues of production and taste with animal-free egg whites, one of the most widely consumed animal proteins in the world

Finland’s Onego Bio has announced the successful close of a €10 million seed round led by investors Agronomics Limited and Maki VC. Onego Bio is from the spinoff incubator of VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland (VTT). VTT LaunchPad focuses on the commercialisation of scientific research such as Onego’s technology and safe, sustainable and cost-effective cellular agriculture for the production of ovalbumin.

Speaking with Sifted, Maija Itkonen, CEO of Onego Bio said:

“This is not a substitute. This is not an alternative. This is the real egg white. Because of its unique functional properties like gelling, foaming, binding and emulsifying, the egg white is extremely difficult to replace with alternative ingredients.”

Onego Bio is part of a new and growing wave of startups in alternative proteins with Onego specifically looking to capitalise on unmet demand for chicken-free egg white protein. Global egg production has doubled in just two decades and is forecasted to reach 138 million tonnes by 2030. Cellular agriculture is expected to grow exponentially and lead to disruptive change across the entire food system. As one of the most consumed animal proteins globally, egg production is part of a system of intensive animal farming that is a leading cause of climate change, contributing to greenhouse gas emissions, issues of water scarcity, and heightened risk of global pandemics.

Image credit: Onego Bio

Onego says its technology offers superior efficiency and productivity. The startup’s biotech process is based on harnessing the microflora Trichoderma reesei for protein production - when provided water, sugar and certain minerals, microflora and precision fermentation can significantly improve the sustainability of egg white production.

Onego will use the funding to continue its pilot in Finland and secure regulatory approval for the animal-free bioalbumen powder. It is expected to go to market first in the United States where approval processes are faster. Onego will first 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 branded products.

Maija Itkonen, CEO of Onego Bio:

“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.

Jim Mellon, Executive Director of Agronomics:

“With Onego’s technology, they have the potential to produce bioalbumen at an industrial scale and at a price point that is competitive with conventional egg production which has major implications for the environment and animal welfare. Egg white production has a huge total addressable market and there is a necessity to utilize precision fermentation tools to meet the demand in a sustainable manner.”

Tua Huomo, Executive Vice President of VTT:

“In Finland there are great companies working on other areas of cellular agriculture, and now it’s time to set the bar high and have a position also for proteins that are traditionally sourced from animals. This action will be hopefully remembered as one of the great milestones towards the more sustainable and healthy food system.”

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