Hot50 companies lead in investments, moving forward in 2021 – iwi’s $10M investment, $73M valuation, Green Plains invests in Fluid Quip, Neste acquiring stake in Alterra Energy

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Looking for some good news? Well, look no further as hot off the press is good news from several Hot50 winners starting with plant-based omega-3 pioneers, Qualitas Health, DBA iwi, which has secured $10 million in venture funds at a $73 million post-money valuation, to accelerate growth and build their unique plant-based protein. And Fluid Quip getting a majority stake investment from Green Plains, Neste acquiring a minority stake in Alterra Energy, and further announcements from Novozymes (Innova Yeast), Kula Bio, Enerkem and other Hot50 winners help explain why they are on the 2021 Digest’s Hot50 list.

In today’s Digest, details on iwi’s new investment round and a dive into the latest Hot50 announcements that give us excitement about the now and hope for the future.

iWi – Voted one of Hot50 hottest companies in advanced ag and nutrition

Let’s start with Texas-based iwi’s $10 million venture funds, their $73 million post-money valuation and how this investment will accelerate growth and build their unique plant-based protein. Iwi was voted one of The Digest’s Hot50 in advanced agriculture and nutrition – get the whole Hot50 list here.

First, money and investors – The investment round is being led by world-class food-Tech investor PeakBridge VC, Malta, together with Arancia Group, a privately owned Mexico-based food ingredient/food service conglomerate, Minrav (the company’s largest investor) and additional private investors. Additional convertible notes held by Minrav Holdings, Sasa, Trucent and other single investors are converted to equity.  The investment will accelerate customer acquisition, and commercialization of the company’s unique plant-based protein. The funds will also be used to deepen its strong clinical science and IP and accelerate its expansion into additional geographies.

So who exactly is iwi and what do they do? iwi is a global producer of the highest absorption polar lipid EPA omega-3. Unique to iwi’s process is that it relies on saltwater, with the sun as the main source of energy and places zero strain on the natural ecosystem. iwi disrupted the algae-farming paradigm by growing its distinctive microscopic algae in cultivation pond systems the size of football stadiums built on non-arable land in the pristine deserts of New Mexico and Texas.

This allows iwi to cleanly cultivate immense amounts of the ancient sea vegetable Nannochrolopsis. This algae is one of the few existing plants that contains all of the essential amino acids — the building blocks of proteins — plus vitamins, minerals, chlorophyll, and essential fatty acids, especially omega-3. The process reflects the company’s desire to bring sustainable nutritious food solutions to feed the growing global population.

Qualitas Health currently produces proprietary, clinically proven, high-absorption omega-3. It markets 15 supplement SKUs under the iwi brand in the US, including soft gels and functional gummies. iwi has built a strong direct-to-consumer platform (DTC), and has an additional presence in more than 5,000 US retailer outlets.

Reaction from the stakeholders

“This investment will be instrumental to accelerating growth in 2021 as iwi advances to the industrial pilot stage of our unique plant-based protein, start the regulatory process, and conduct additional clinical studies,” says Miguel Calatayud, CEO of Qualitas Health. This uniquely sourced, complete plant protein will be ready for commercialization in 2022.”

“This new investment round is a significant milestone for our company,” adds Calatayud. “We are fortunate to have such prominent partners join us in our journey and we are grateful to our existing and new shareholders for their commitment and ongoing support. iwi experienced significant growth in 2020 with online sales, and strong sales growth is forecast to continue in 2021.”

“Qualitas ticks all the boxes for meeting our investment criteria,” contributes Nadav Berger, co-founder and Managing Partner of PeakBridge. “It has strong intellectual property, proven scaling capabilities, and tremendous sustainability impact — all of which give iwi a unique edge within the plant-based nutrition industry. We welcome Qualitas and its new and existing investors to the PeakBridge family.”

“PeakBridge is far more than a VC fund,” adds Yoni Glickman, Chairman of Qualitas. “PeakBridge, together with our additional new investors, brings decades of knowledge, expertise, and food industry networking, and Arancia is an industry leader with a long heritage of operational excellence and innovation. They also add significant value to our company. We warmly welcome our new partners and look forward to executing our ambitious plans together.”

Green Plains buys majority interest in Fluid Quip Technologies

Another Hot50 winner, Fluid Quip Technologies, gets a majority stake investment from Green Plains. Green Plains will look to deploy a number of Fluid Quip’s advancing technologies in sustainable high proteins, renewable corn oil and Clean Sugar Technology (CSTTM) throughout its platform beginning in 2021.

The acquisition capitalizes on the core strengths of the partners to develop and implement proven, value-added agriculture, food and industrial biotechnology systems, and to rapidly expand installation of Ultra-High Protein production across Green Plains’ facilities in parallel with offering these technologies to partnering biofuel facilities. The terms of the transaction were not disclosed. As part of the transaction, Ospraie acquired 550,000 warrants for Green Plains stock (each warrant equal to one share of stock) with a strike price of $22 per share.

More on the story here.

Novozymes taps a gusher for hardy biorefiners, in a corn oil extraction breakthrough

As reported in The Digest just a week ago, from North Carolina came news that another Hot50 company, Novozymes, launched Fortiva Hemi to increase revenues for the enervated but still enthusiastic corn biorefineries of the US heartland.

Fortiva Hemi is a cocktail of novel enzymes for liquefaction that deliver greater than 10% oil yield improvement and up to 1% ethanol yield gain above Novozymes’ industry leading Fortiva Revo liquefaction solutions. Yes, a 1G solution for those needing Action This Day.

Fortiva Hemi was designed for use in 1G biofuels to capture only the desirable traits of the technology, making them unique to all other enzymes available in the 1G liquefaction space.

More on the story here.

What’s Kool about Kula Bio?

Another Hot50 winner, Kula Bio sent its nitrogen-fixing microbial troops equipped with plenty of K-rations to transform soil economics and crop yields. Kula Bio’s nitrogen-fixers are dropped in to the soil with a supply pack of Kula Energy. Of course, we think of them as K-Rations, after the daily combat food ration distributed to airborne troops on WWII. Only Kula Bio organisms can access the energy. It’s sort of like dropping in your microbes into a field of lactose-intolerant microbial competitors, equipped with a supply of whole milk.

So, you get the idea. Our 82nd Airborne is equipped with a special food supply only they can use, and they parachute into a series of fields, on a mission to fix nitrogen. Only, the microbes are healthier because they have an assured food supply they are not distracted (energy budget-wise) by foraging activities. Theoretically, they fix more nitrogen, faster. Lower applications for the soil of external nitrogen, less cost, less runoff, more yield, more precision.

A dive into Kula Bio, Pivot Bio (another Hot50 company), nitrogen costs, corn crop yields, microbes and more on the story here.

Neste acquires minority stake in Alterra Energy

Just last week in Finland, Neste, another Hot50 company – #3 for Renewable Fuels, Chemicals, and Biomaterials, acquired a minority stake in Alterra Energy, an innovative chemical recycling technology company. Neste’s equity investment supports Alterra Energy’s expansion. The collaboration between the companies will include joint technology development and global technology licensing, enabling the partners to collaborate in commercializing Alterra’s proprietary thermochemical liquefaction technology in Europe.

Alterra’s technology enables a broad range of plastic waste streams from diverse post-consumer sources to be liquefied into a material similar to crude oil. Such material can be flexibly processed and upgraded by companies like Neste into high-quality feedstock for polymers and chemicals production. The collaboration of the companies supports Alterra Energy’s target of commencing the construction of a state-of-the-art liquefaction site in Europe during 2021.

More on the story here.

Enerkem, Shell, Suncor, Proman’s new $669 million biofuels baby

More Hot50 companies like Enerkem and Shell made big news recently too with their proposed construction of an $669 million biofuel plant in Varennes, Québec, in partnership with the Québec and Canadian governments.

The project would use more than 200,000 tonnes of non-recyclable waste and wood waste to produce nearly 125 million litres of biofuels, and would include construction of one of the world’s largest renewable hydrogen and oxygen production facilities with an 87-megawatt electrolyzer leveraging Quebec’s green electricity. Overall, investment of $60 million since August 2019 has been made by the partners develop the project, prepare the site and obtain the required permits.

More on the story here.

Gevo’s sustainable aviation fuel takes off in Seattle

Just a few weeks ago, another Hot50 company in Renewable Fuels, Chemicals and Biomaterials, Colorado-based Gevo, had their sustainable aviation fuel delivered to Leading Edge Jet Center, a provider of business aviation services throughout the Pacific Northwest, to deliver a demonstrative load of SAF to the fixed-base operator’s Seattle facility.

The delivery marks the first load of sustainable aviation fuel for an FBO at the King County International Airport – Boeing Field (BFI) for resale to its customers, as well as Avfuel’s entry to SAF deliveries in Washington state.

And just a few days ago, Gevo announced that they paid off secured debt balance – the entire outstanding balance of $12.7 million of Gevo’s 12.0% Convertible Senior Secured Notes exchanged and issued to Whitebox Advisors LLC on January 10, 2020.

More on the story here.

Amyris seals $50M deal with DSM Nutritional Products

#5 of the Hot 50 in Renewable Fuels, Chemicals and Biomaterials, California-based Amyris, announced the closing of a strategic transaction with DSM Nutritional Products Ltd., the first of three anticipated transactions management described during its recent virtual investor mini-series event.

Under the terms of the agreement Amyris is licensing to DSM rights to assume the supply of Farnesene to Givaudan for the production and sale of a single specialty ingredient. The transaction is valued at $50 million, with $30 million payable by December 30, 2020, $10 million payable in the first quarter of 2021, and the remainder in milestone payments thereafter.

More on the story here.

Bottom Line

2021 may be off to a rough start in many ways, but in the bioeconomy at least there is good news that investments in biofuels, biochemicals, biotech and other areas continue. These were just some of the bigger investments and developments from The Digest’s Hot50 companies and we know there are more out there, so keep an eye out and stay tuned as we expect more good news to roll in throughout 2021.



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