Squeezing out money form rapeseed
The world’s first bio-refinery producing rapeseed-derived protein is about to be built in Poland’s Lower Silesia region. The visionary scientists from Łódź who came up with the idea have obtained an oil industry investor and raised a good share of the necessary funds to achieve the goal.
“In two years’ time a pilot bio-refinery in Żórawina will be completed, enabling us to begin rapeseed protein production on an industrial scale”, announces Krzysztof Wilczyński from Wilmar Group. The company, specialising in oilseed processing, is the investor in the NapiFeryn BioTech project. On top of their capital, Wilmar will contribute its technological know-how. The outcome of the cooperation between the two companies is going to be a new Polish-made plant protein available on the global market.
Food grade protein from rapeseed is an idea developed by a group of biotechnologists from Łódź. They patented a method of obtaining the highly valued component from biomass leftovers after oil pressing.”Our solution means good news for food producers, we can provide them with protein source alternative to soya. This is particularly important for countries that have rich rapeseed resources, such as Poland”, says Doctor Magdalena Kozłowska, President of NapiFeryn BioTech. “Rapeseed is the most widely grown oilseed plant in Poland. The annual harvest is 2.2-3.2 million metric tonnes. We are the fourth largest producer of rapeseed in the European Union, while nearly 100% of soya and its semi-finished products are imported, mainly from Argentina and Paraguay”, Kozłowska points out.
Doctor Piotr Wnukowski adds that rapeseed protein can serve as a healthy additive to bread, pasta, sweets, and beverages, “Oil mills can also benefit from this technology, with more value squeezed out of rapeseed: oil plus natural, functional protein”.
Over a year ago, the commercial potential of NapiFeryn was recognised by Impera Alfa, the first fund specialising in early-stage investments. They spent one million PLN on the new, Polish-made ecological protein. “We invest only in unique Polish scientific and technological projects, including those from the agri-food industry carrying global commercialisation potential,” explains Andrzej Ziemiński from Impera Alfa. “We chose NapiFeryn based on an analysis of global trends in food production, but also because of their innovative process of obtaining protein, scalability of production for other markets and the experience of the management team”, adds the VC representative.
It has been a lucky streak for NapiFeryn BioTech. In late 2016 the company was awarded the prestigious Economic Award of the Governor of Łódź Voivodeship in the start-up category. The company then received nearly PLN 12 million in EU support, which comprised money from the Fast Path competition (organised by the National Centre for Research and Development) and Horizon 2020 (the largest EU programme for funding research and innovation). In 2017, NapiFeryn BioTech will continue refining its technology and expanding its research team. A group of young specialists from the Technical University of Łódź is already working with Kozłowska and Wnukowski. The company’s labs are located in Bionanopark, a science and technology complex in Łódź. This means that all research and development facilities of the company are comfortably located in the city.