MiAlgae was founded by Douglas Martin while studying for an MSc in Synthetic Biology and Biotechnology in 2016 with the help of Edinburgh Innovations.
Upcycling process keeps costs down
The Edinburgh-based firm grows eco-friendly omega-3 by recycling “waste” co-product from the whisky distillation process which is highly nutritious to grow microalgae. This ready-made, human-grade, growth media enables MiAlgae to keep costs down, and they constantly monitor growth in specifically designed fermenting vessels to ensure the best quality omega-3.
This alternative source of omega-3 will help MiAlgae achieve its aim of eliminating reliance on wild-caught fish as the prime source of omega-3. Did you know that fish are unable to produce omega-3 and instead accumulate it from the food they eat? MiAlgae's zero-waste solution is better for the environment because 90% of the world's stock of fish are overexploited or fully depleted and so are no longer a sustainable source of omega-3. MiAlgae’s process essentially cuts out the intermediary, leaving the fish in the ocean and recycles waste from food and drink production to return clean water.
The microalgae can be used as new source material for pet and aquaculture feed. It is also a point of differentiation for sales, as customers demand more scrutiny over what goes into products and how the effects of production on the environment.
Support from Edinburgh Innovations
Edinburgh Innovations were instrumental in helping Douglas to develop and launch his business, and to win the earliest grants and awards, and connect with and pitch to investors.
Since its incorporation, MiAlgae has secured significant investment, including from Old College Capital, the in-house venture fund of the University of Edinburgh. Edinburgh Innovations continue to support the company has it looks to start scaling its technology. MiAlgae has also obtained a number of grants and
awards, including Smart: Scotland grant, the Scottish Edge Wild Card and Edinburgh Innovation’s Inspire Launch Grow Innovation Cup, and was Shell LiveWire Young Entrepreneur of the Year.
Edinburgh Innovations has been fantastic - from day one they have supported us. We walked in with the most basic idea and then the business plan came together. Our business adviser supported us through the whole process and helped guide us through the various funding and awards opportunities available.
Douglas Martin, Managing Director, MiAlgae.
Innovative circular economy model
MiAlgae is passionate about the environment and committed to contributing to the green recovery. They strive to minimise the impact of the growing population on climate change, whilst also trying to meet the needs of that population.
At the heart of MiAlgae is an innovative circular economy model. The company’s innovative bioprocessing technology offers a cheaper and greener alternative service to Scottish distilleries for disposal of whisky coproducts, by recycling to clean water and upcycling to a value-added microalgal omega-3 product targeted at the animal nutrition sector. The remaining waste from the production process is converted to green energy by anaerobic digestion and the full bioprocess runs off bioenergy. The company’s microalgal products are aimed to strongly contribute to the sustainability of the animal nutrition sector and are more financially accessible than existing products, facilitating the economic growth of the pet food and aquaculture industries in Scotland.
Future and advice for budding entrepreneurs
MiAlgae goes from strength to strength and has received a Good Practice award from the 2021 VIBES – Scottish Environment Business Awards.
Meet as many people as you can. Essentially everyone wants to help, but be careful of who you get help from. If you hit a roadblock then find routes around. We had to change things halfway through getting started – so don’t be afraid of change. Expect the chaos, take it one day at a time and ask for help. There is an amazing support network out there: use them.
Douglas Martin, MiAlgae.
Investment Fund Manager and University Company Observer