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Animal-free egg protein startup Onego Bio is one step closer to breaking into the traditional egg market

Rising egg prices in 2023 provide an opportunity for alternative protein companies to show they can compete with traditional egg manufacturers.

A year later, prices have calmed down, but a flurry of activity to create more sustainable eggs is still booming. One company in the mix is ​​Onego Bio, a Finland-based food biotech company that uses the Trichoderma reesei fungus and precision fermentation to create an animal-free protein alternative called Bioalbumen.

Maija Itkonen, co-founder and CEO of Onego Bio (pronounced on-eh-go), spun out the company in 2022 with Christopher Landowski, a precision fermentation expert at VTT (Technology Research Center of Finland).

Maija Itkonen, Christopher Landowski, Onego Bio, animal-free egg protein.

Onego Bio co-founders Maija Itkonen and Christopher Landowski. Image Source: Onego Bio

Itkonen told TechCrunch that the company’s patented fungal fermentation technology process allows it to produce 120 grams per liter of product in a 250,000-liter fermentation vessel. With this capability, Onego Bio is close to reaching a price point that is competitive with traditional egg protein manufacturing methods, she added.

Onego Bio claims that bioprotein is “bioidentical” to ovalbumin, the main protein in egg whites. It also contains all essential amino acids and is high in protein: 90 grams per 100 grams of egg white. Additionally, the eggs produced by the company have a 90% smaller environmental impact than chicken eggs.

The company designs bioproteins with clean, neutral flavors that can be used to replace eggs in a variety of foods, baked goods, snacks and sauces. The company plans to sell the bioprotein to companies that will subsequently produce food products.

“What we do is different from the systems other companies are developing,” Ikonen said. “The growth rate of microorganisms is a little slower, but it’s much more productive. So it’s more productive and the product is simple and doesn’t require specialized equipment. It all comes back to cost, because in order to really compete with animal products, it needs to Keep the price the same.”

The company will launch in North America first. Itkonen expects Onego Bio to receive Bioalbumen’s self-confirmed GRAS (generally recognized as safe) status this year and a no-objection letter from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2025. The company will then expand in Europe, South America and the Middle East. Asia.

To this end, Onego Bio recently secured $40 million in Series A funding to bring Bioalbumen to market and increase manufacturing capabilities. Funds will be used to develop the U.S. commercial team and work with joint manufacturers while completing construction of its own factory. Itkonen said the company is about to build a full-scale Onego production unit with a fermentation capacity of 2 million liters, which will effectively replace the laying hen farm with 6 million laying hens.

Japanese Nordic venture capital firm NordicNinja led the round, with participation from 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 and help solve major global challenges. Itkonen declared Onego Bio’s Series A round “one of the largest Series A rounds in Northern Europe,” bringing 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 achieve commercialization in record time… and has a clear path to industrialization, launch and profitability. In less than In two years, Onego has partnered with major global food companies and is poised to disrupt the $330 billion egg market and create system-level change to accelerate the green transition.”

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