Lars Langhout, CEO, and Jeroen Hugenholtz, CTO, founded NoPalm Ingredients in 2021 to develop a local, circular and sustainable oil as an alternative to palm- and other plant based oils. While Jeroen is the fermentation expert, Lars has the business knowledge and experience. Jeroen Hugenholtz explains what they do: “The oil we make is way more sustainable than the existing conventional plant based oils. 19% of palm oil is now sustainable, RSO palm oil, but the demand for palm oil is increasing by 4% per year. The amount of sustainable palm oil cannot increase at that pace. We developed a much needed alternative that can be made locally and uses little land. We do this with fermentation and instead of a plant, we use a yeast. The fermentation forms the same kind of oils as you find in those plants and the process is much more controlled. It doesn't need a large land area, you can just put it in a fermenter.” Lars adds: “For the fermentation we use waste streams from the industry, for example spent grains, potato peels, sugar, chicory and everything that is actually thrown away in the food industry or forwarded to biomass installations or the animal feed industry. Compared to conventional palm oil, our oil and fats use 90% less CO2 and 99% less land. After our fermentation we are left with a residual product, which mainly consists of protein. There is a big demand for ‘new’ protein sources and because we aim for ‘total use’ we have made a by-product out of it that can be used as a protein source.”
“Our company grew really fast. Within 10 months we had proven that our process is scalable and that we could do it for a competitive price. We started with just the two of us and now we have a team consisting of over 20 people ready to scale up. We are preparing for a larger-scale R&D (Research and Development) facility and a demo-factory that can supply the products we already have customers for and are in the process of raising financing for this. The Circular Factory program fits in well with the phase we are in: the phase in which many companies encounter challenges. Luckily, this program includes many parties that can help us out. Neither of us has ever built factories.There are all kinds of lessons in the market that the program can teach us, so that we won’t make the same mistakes. For most of the participants , things have often gone more wrong than right and we hope to collectively learn from that.
We are also encountering challenges regarding the environmental permits. Currently we have to obtain the same environmental permit as conventional oil refinery as the current system does not account for yeast oil production using microorganisms. However, where the oil industry is a heavily polluting industry, our production process is not. Unfortunately, we still have to deal with the oil legislation when we want to build a factory, which limits the number of possible locations.”
“In five years, we do not have one factory, but multiple. Some will be under our own management, some under the management of companies that have their own waste streams and need their own oils. In that case we will license the process. One of our goals is to be able to put our factories wherever there are suitable waste streams, and that won’t be just in the Netherlands. For example, we want to make use of the overcapacity of the brewery- and the wine industry. With wine there are millions of liters of fermenters that are only used for 1.5 months per year and in the beer industry we see a decrease in production resulting in unused fermenters just sitting there. This is exactly the equipment we need for our process. If we could use these, it means we do not have to build new ones. In that case it would make the process even more circular.”
The second edition of Circular Factory has started with six new startups that want to be prepared for building a demo factory. All six startups have real potential to provide circular alternatives on industrial scale and this is desperately needed. The coming nine months the Circular Factory programme guides the six startups through the challenging scaling phase from pilot to demo plant.Read more
That is the amount the startups Bakkersgrondstof, Biophilica, BlueBlocks, Fairm, Magie Creations and Nature's Principles need to make a serious scale step. The young companies are participants in the Circular Factory programme, set up by Tekkoo, BlueCity and partners such as Invest NL and Renewi. The program supports startups that want to build a factory for their circular or biobased products. In this way, Circular Factory wants to contribute to the realization of twenty circular factories in the coming years.Read more