For a lot of applications, biobased chemicals have enhanced functionality compared to chemically produced products. However, biochemicals produced by fermentation require large volume vessels to make them, owing to the slow conversion of raw materials with the microorganisms used. This makes them much more expensive to produce and so they tend to only be used for niche applications.
Dr Ben Dolman, Co-Founder and CEO of Holiferm, has helped develop gravity-based separation technology that dramatically reduces the cost of production of lipid bioproducts, particularly biosurfactants. Most surfactants used in the cosmetic industry are irritants, and many in the agricultural market are toxic endocrine disruptors, with bans coming into place for some of these surfactants.
Dr Dolman says: “By using gravity, Holiferm’s new technology requires less energy and no solvents. The new process allows us to recover insoluble lipids from the production vessel as they are produced, alongside major improvements in the fermentation process. This has enabled us to reduce the vessel volume fourfold, reducing production costs by more than 50%.”
Holiferm recently agreed its first technology license with a leading surfactant company. The company is now raising investment to build its first commercial plant producing over 1,000 tonnes of biosurfactant a year.
Dr Dolman says: “The financial contribution from the Enterprise Fellowship has enabled us to accelerate Holiferm’s growth and provided the financial security required for raising our first venture capital investment round. The business support has also helped to solidify our commercialisation plans, moving towards the construction of the commercial production facility we are currently fundraising for.”
2018 – Dr Dolman and Dr James Winterburn awarded £10,000 for winning the ‘Early Career’ category of the BBSRC’s Innovator of the Year awards
2018 – Technology demonstrated at pilot scale at three commercial collaborator sites
2018 – First commercial license of Holiferm technology
2019– £200,000 follow-on funding from Innovate UK
2019 – ICOS Capital confirm investment in Holiferm
2020 – Multiple joint application development projects with financial contributions from major surfactant producers and formulators