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Enifer to tackle the world's soaring protein need

Enifer was founded in 2020 as a spinoff of VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland.

Iiro Muttilainen

Finnish biotechnology company Enifer has secured 36 million euros in funding to build a pioneering food-grade mycoprotein factory in Kirkkonummi, Finland.

Once completed by the end of 2025, Enifer's factory will transform food industry side streams into PEKILO fungi-based protein ingredients. It will be the world's first commercial-scale operation to produce such mycoprotein from side stream-based raw materials.

The factory aims to produce up to 3 000 tonnes of PEKILO annually, which is sufficient to meet the protein needs of approximately 40 000 people each year. The Espoo-based company boasts that its production has a low carbon footprint and minimal land and water footprints, presenting a sustainable alternative to traditional animal and plant proteins. World Economic Forum highlights a growing need for protein as the global population soars. 

The funding package includes a 15-million-euro series-B equity round led by Taaleri Bioindustry Fund I, with additional investments from Enifer’s existing shareholders Nordic Foodtech VC, Voima Ventures and Valio. In addition, the Finnish Climate Fund contributed a seven-million-euro capital loan, complemented by a two-million-euro loan from Finnvera. This funding builds on Enifer’s previously reported 12-million-euro grant from Business Finland.

“We are very happy to start co-operation with Enifer,” said Tero Saarno, managing director of Taaleri Bioindustry. “We believe there is an increased need for alternative proteins as the global population grows. Demand is also supported globally by environmental and ethical considerations.”

The factory will be built as a brownfield project in Kantvik, some 30 kilometres from Helsinki. Operations are expected to ramp up in 2026, with the facility producing 500 kilos of mycoprotein per hour at full capacity. The factory will employ around 15 people during regular operation and more than twice that during construction.

Enifer’s mycoprotein powder contains a significant amount of protein and fibre and is neutral in colour and taste. 

A taste for alternative proteins

Enifer's mycoprotein is produced by cultivating a specific fungus in a fermentation process similar to brewing beer or making soy sauce. The PEKILO fermentation process was initially developed in Finland in the 1970s to upcycle forest industry side streams. Enifer has adapted it to utilise new raw material streams from the food and agricultural industries, making it suitable for diverse food applications.

The company and its partners have already successfully trialled the mycoprotein, which is neutral in colour and taste, across meat and dairy alternatives, baking, pastries and snacks.

Enifer plans to file for novel foods approval for the ingredient in 2024 and anticipates approval by 2026.

“The facility in Kantvik serves as a key stepping stone on our path to making mycoprotein a cornerstone of protein supply, with several future factories already being planned,” said Simo Ellilä, CEO and co-founder of Enifer.

Enifer is one of many Finnish companies working with sustainable protein sources. A recent in-depth study found that the Finnish food tech technology sector is led by cellular agriculture and next-generation food innovations and comprises 84 companies. One of them is Synbio Powerlabs, which recently announced a partnership with Oxford-based Ivy Farm to commence producing cultivated meat in Finland.

By: Eeva Haaramo