Estonian-based startup ÄIO, which develops sustainable fat and oil production through fermentation, has initiated a Series A funding round, with early investment participation from Voima Ventures. With new funding, the company wants to speed up the introduction of its products in food, cosmetic, and chemical industries.
Founded in 2022 as a spin-out of Tallinn University of Technology, ÄIO aims to transform traditional fats and oils. By replacing them with locally sourced, sustainable alternatives, ÄIO is on track to reduce the carbon footprint in the cosmetic and food sectors.
Circular economy principles
Unlike conventional production methods, which rely heavily on palm oils and animal-based fats, ÄIO employs circular economy processes that harness agricultural and food industry side-streams through innovative fermentation techniques. The result is a proprietary microbe capable of producing diverse lipid forms, including oil and buttery fats, offering eco-friendly solutions to various industries. The company’s microbial oils offer a promising substitute for environmentally harmful ingredients like palm oil and animal fats, commonly used in various products such as food additives, cosmetics, and household chemicals.
Investor confidence in ÄIO’s ground-breaking approach is growing, as shown in its recent funding round, with significant contributions from Nordic Foodtech VC, Voima Ventures, and Enterprise Estonia. In tandem, these investors are boosting the creation of “The Good Fat Wörks” – a dedicated innovation hub for producing ÄIO’s low-carbon oils and fats. The project has also garnered support from Accelerate Estonia and various key partners who share the vision for a more sustainable future.
ÄIO’s efforts are firmly rooted in addressing the considerable environmental and economic challenges posed by traditional agricultural and animal farming practices. The company’s innovative approach could potentially reduce land use by 74-97% and cut water consumption by up to 10 times when compared to current palm oil and animal fat production. The other advantage is speed. It takes a long time to make butter, from the cow eating the grass to milk processing. Palm oil fruits take a long time to grow. The speed at which we produce oils and fats could also increase 10 times if fermentation is widely used.
“We believe that by utilising fermentation and circular economy principles, we can pave the way for a more sustainable future across industries,” stated Nemailla Bonturi and Petri-Jaan Lahtvee, co-founders and co-CEOs of ÄIO. “Our technology has the potential to significantly reduce CO2 emissions and promote biodiversity while delivering competitive and valuable solutions.”
The recent funding injection will enable ÄIO to take the next significant steps in its journey. The company plans to construct an in-house pilot plant with a weekly production capacity of 20 kg, apply for novel food permits, expand its product portfolio, and initiate the pre-engineering phase for a demo-scale facility. Additionally, ÄIO aims to collaborate with various industries to test its products and explore opportunities for technology licensing.