Vicky De Groof

Vicky De GroofSurfactants, used to decrease surface or interfacial tensions, have multiple uses in the chemical industry. Their industrial applications include household detergents, cosmetics, and agriculture. Holiferm Ltd, a Manchester-based company, is looking to move away from non-fossil-based chemical surfactants by developing and supplying sustainable, fermentation-derived ingredients for industrial and consumer products.

Holiferm has developed commercially viable, continuous manufacturing processes for biosurfactants and lipids that are able to deliver green products to the mass market at volume, and at competitive prices. The company’s patented integrated gravity separation and fermentation technology increases fermentation process productivity fourfold and reduces biosurfactant production costs by more than 50%.

Vicky De Groof joined Holiferm as a fermentation engineer. Within a year she had become the company’s Chief Technology Officer, responsible for a team of 10 people. Vicky then joined the Shott Scale Up Accelerator programme in 2022, and says, “I hope the networking opportunities and workshops will allow me to meet others, create new ideas, widen my perspectives, build my business confidence and lead to serendipitous findings.”

Holiferm is aiming to persuade the £27 billion surfactant market to move away from petroleum-based chemicals to biobased, sustainable alternatives. In 2021, the company started the year with a team of 10 and a pilot plant. By the end of that year, it had raised over £7 million of investment, increased the team to 20 people, and started to build a commercial plant.

Now, it is developing and refining new processes, doubling the team count again and generating a clear product pipeline. Holiferm’s fermentation technology will enable it to produce other types of biosurfactants and fermentation-derived chemicals that will help transform the chemical industry into a more sustainable one.

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