Peter Rowe, chief executive of Deep Branch, which today announced that it had raised €8m to accelerate the progress of its Proton SCP aquafeed ingredient towards commercial production. Photo: Deep Branch.

UK CO2-to-feed pioneer targets Norway for first plant

Circular economy feed ingredient developer Deep Branch has raised €8 million (£6.9m) to complete a scale-up facility in the Netherlands and has targeted Norway for its first commercial production facility in 2023.

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Deep Branch uses microbes to convert carbon dioxide from industrial emissions into a new type of single-cell protein (SCP), trademarked Proton, used to make a feed ingredient with a nutritional profile that is comparable with fishmeal.

The company, a spin-out from Nottingham University, has a pilot plant at Drax power station in Yorkshire that has been used to prove the technology and has been building a new facility at the Brightlands Chemelot Campus, a hub for circular chemistry and chemical processes in the Netherlands.

Click on image to enlarge. Graphic: Deep Branch.

Nutritional validation

The €8m raised in a Series A investment round complements €4m in funding secured from UK and EU grant-funded projects scheduled from Q4 2020 to Q1 2023.

Lead investors in the Series A fund raising are Danish life sciences investor Novo Holdings and DSM Venturing, the venture capital arm of Dutch science-based company Royal DSM which holds a 50% stake in algal oil producer Veramaris.

The Series A financing will enable the completion of Deep Branch’s facility at Brightlands, producing the first pilot-scale batches of Proton for full nutritional validation with feed producers, including BioMar and AB Agri. It will also enable the company to inform key engineering design work for its first commercial-scale production facility.

New markets

“The financial support and extensive expertise this investment round brings us will accelerate the execution of our vision,” said Deep Branch chief executive Peter Rowe in a press release.

“It reflects our heavy emphasis on collaboration, complementing our existing partnerships by bringing in new aspects of the value chain, including hydrogen, scaling bioprocesses, and commercial finance.

“We regard our technology as a platform that we will leverage to address new markets with Proton, as well as expanding our product line to more CO₂-based products.”    

Rowe added: “We are concluding a mapping exercise to determine the optimal location for our first Proton commercial production facility. Norway’s world-leading position in both the salmon industry and production of low-carbon hydrogen make it ideal from an offtake and input perspective, putting it high on our list. To meet our goal of commercial production by 2023, we have already begun engaging the necessary partners to make this a reality.”

Deep Branch is supported by the REACT-FIRST project, which brings together 10 consortium partners from industry and academia, including aquafeed manufacturer BioMar, Stirling University’s Institute of Aquaculture (IoA) and the Stirling-based Sustainable Aquaculture Innovation Centre (SAIC).

Feed produced with Proton by BioMar will be nutritionally assessed by the IoA.

Deep Branch says its method of producing animal feed protein reduces CO₂ emissions by more than 90% compared to currently used protein sources imported from South America.