Despite significant declines in funding for Israeli hi-tech companies, microalgae-based alternative protein start-up Brevel has announced the successful completion of a seed funding round which secured a hefty $18.5 million in investments, a feat which highlights investors’ belief in the potential of alternative protein solutions.
The funds raised by Brevel will be used to further its goal of producing a neutral-tasting, functional, highly sustainable, and affordable alternative protein, breaking into a market that is projected to reach over $290 billion by 2035, according to Boston Consulting Group. The company’s technology addresses the main challenges facing the microalgae market, thereby representing a critical breakthrough in the alternative protein space.
A delicate tightrope walk
Since its inception, the alternative protein market has struggled in its efforts to produce a solution which can properly approach three critical factors: cost, taste, and sustainability. For example: the current market leader is undoubtedly soy, which has dominated the alternative protein space for many years thanks to its low production costs and tolerable taste, but where it falls short of the mark is in its efficient use of minimal resources.
If sustainable protein is the primary goal then microalgae is the way to go: it uses a mere fraction of the water and land as soy (and beef, for that matter), and produces a third of the bean-based protein’s CO2 emissions. With such efficient potential, the only thing holding microalgae back, really, is that it tastes terrible and it’s expensive to grow.
Traditionally, two main microalgae production methods have emerged to address these problems: light-based growing, which tastes fine but is expensive to produce; and sugar-based fermentation, which tastes pretty bad but is quick and cheap to churn out.
There hasn’t really been a solution that manages to produce microalgae protein that is cheap to produce and boasts high protein yields while simultaneously not tasting awful. Brevel claims that they’ve created that solution, and they’ve recently collected 18.5 million reasons to believe that they’re on to something.
A silver bullet solution
The company’s production method combines sugar-based fermentation of microalgae with high light concentrations at an industrial scale, thereby mixing the best of both worlds. In an interview with the Jerusalem Post, the company’s CEO Yonatan Golan explained the incredible efficiency that Brevel’s method is capable of.
“With a single 25 square meter system of ours, we can produce more protein than 5,000 square meters of current outdoor microalgae production. We can produce more protein than 14,000 square meters of soy production, and more protein than 250,000 square meters of beef production,” Golan said. “This is the future of our food system. Not only for moral or sustainability reasons — this will be the future because this is the economically right thing to do.”
Shai Levy, Managing Partner at Brevel’s seed round leader NevaTeam Partners, emphasized his belief in the company’s potential to shape the alternative protein market.
“Having followed Brevel’s impressive developments and achievements in recent years, we believe that [they] will be one of the leading companies in the global alternative protein industry and we are excited to join their journey towards that goal,” said Levy, who will be joining the start-up’s board. “We believe that Brevel’s innovative technology enables the cost-efficient production of high-quality protein extracted from microalgae, which is crucial for the future of sustainable food production.”