Meet the start-ups: Algiecel - BioInnovation Institute

Meet the start-ups: Algiecel

Meet the start-ups: Algiecel

Algiecel was founded to solve the challenge of converting the CO2 emissions of today’s production methods into feasible business opportunities. We chatted with the CEO of Algiecel, Henrik Busch Larsen, to get more acquainted with the company’s mission and vision.

What is the idea behind the company?

Many industrial facilities have CO2 emissions. The Western World holds many decentralized biogas and fermentation plants that emit relatively tiny quantities of CO2 compared to, e.g., cement production plants. Massive power-to-x projects require a lot of CO2, space for installations, and a lot of capital. No real feasible CCU solutions exist today to address this challenge for small and mid-sized companies.

Algiecel has developed a compact, modular plug & play microalgae photobioreactor fitted into standard 40´ shipping containers. The photobioreactor will capture CO2 emissions continuously and transforms it using LED light via photosynthesis into microalgae biomass. The only waste streams are oxygen and process heat which can be reused. The containers can be stacked on any flat surface and are highly scalable since the batch size remains constant per container, thus reducing the risk of contamination.

The reactors enable the easy transformation of industrial CO2 emissions into algae-based derivative products. The products are precious commodities such as Omega 3 oils and protein and Omega 3 rich biomass for food and feed products. These products will replace or complement products with less positive environmental impact. The revenue from the derivative product sales is shared with the industrial client to facilitate a cost-neutral removal of CO2 short-term and a long-term positive revenue stream.

What is the critical driver for Algiecel?

We aim to remove millions of tons of CO2 annually from industrial production and have thousands of units in operation over the next decade.

The main driver is to offer a technology to our clients that is easy to implement and operate while turning a problem, the CO2 emission, into an investment opportunity providing the client with an excellent return on investment.

The pace of the technology roll-out also drives us. We want to have a commercial product in the market within very few years, allowing the company an attractive revenue stream to scale the business further.

What have you already learned from being part of the Venture Lab program?

The program enables the company to work in a structured way to address and identify critical tasks and must-haves. To mention a few examples, the program helps us to prepare all the material needed for future engagement with investors, risk-mapping, and identifying our main competitors and their strengths and weaknesses.

During the program, we also learned that becoming a success is not only a matter of great technology but, even more importantly, the quality of the team. Employees are an absolute key to a company’s success. As a CEO, it is my job to constantly place attention on whether my employees have the best conditions to solve their respective tasks.

What would be the optimal outcome when finishing the program?

The optimal outcome for Algiecel would be to have the company ready for a demonstration-scale project in terms of having secured all the material needed for successful fundraising, a solid structure around the company, and an organization ready to execute the outlined strategy. Furthermore, we must have established key partnerships and completed the design of a full-scale container-fitted microalgae photobioreactor by the second quarter of 2023 to bring the company to a demonstration project phase.

Who are your main competitors, and how do you differ from them?

Our competitors can be placed in two different categories.

You need to place our competitors in different categories to answer that question. In the space of Microalgae Carbon Capture and Utilization, which is defined by operating a closed photobioreactor system with a modular design and having a commercial focus on capturing C02 rather than only producing the derivative products.

Algiecel’s unique selling point in this space is that our technology is a highly mobile plug & play solution, which means that the containers can be stacked and packed, and little technical know-how is required from the client’s side.

Another category consists of competitors operating in the Non-Microalgae Carbon Capture and Utilization space, defined as capturing CO2 from small and mid-scale industrial point emissions and valorizing CO2 to compensate for its cost.

Our advantage in this space is that we can capture emissions on a scale starting at several hundred tons annually. In contrast, competitors would need much larger projects and cannot target small-scale biogas production sites. Additionally, the microalgae biomass derived from the process has a significantly higher value than other derivative products from carbon capture units, thus making our case more economically favorable/feasible.

What considerations do you have regarding the fundraising process?

Potential investors must be met by a professionally looking company, not a chaotic start-up, to achieve a successful fundraising process.

Thus, we need to not only be able to show data from our pilot project but have a wholly structured data room and professional material that highlights the company’s mission and vision and how we expect to fulfill our ambitions.

Where do you see Algiecel in 3-5 years? Which milestones do you need to achieve?

Algiecel has completed a fast-paced journey from concept to a fully functioning pilot within one year. The ambition for the next five years is to keep up the pace and enable the rollout of the technology to be well-timed to changing policy environments regarding green energy and carbon taxation and pricing.

After completing the construction of the pilot in Q2 2022, the first full-scale demonstration project will commence in Q3 2023. Off-take agreements for the derived microalgae biomass will be secured based on the results. Afterward, a complete industrial production line for our mobile microalgae photobioreactors will be set up and supported by robotics to enable feasible unit economics.

Within five years, we envision being at the forefront of the European organic CCU market.

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