Holiferm to bring eco-friendly biosurfactants to the mass market following $7M investment boost

Holiferm, the award-winning University of Manchester biotech spin out, is set to elevate its work in developing eco-friendly biosurfactants following a significant first close of an investment boost to build a commercial biosurfactant plant.

Surfactants – a key ingredient in many products, including detergents and toiletries – are usually manufactured using petrochemicals or tropical oils, both of which are linked with significant environmental damage.

While eco-friendly products in this sector do exist (biosurfactants), they use a costly yeast-based batch fermentation process. Holiferm has developed a sustainable approach that allows this process to be carried out semi-continuously, enabling the delivery of green products to the mass market at a competitive price point.

Realising an ambitious vision for environmental sustainability

Ben Dolman, Holiferm’s Chief Executive Officer, said: “Long-term, we want our range of green biosurfactants to remove the global market’s dependency on petrochemicals.” The company’s journey towards this goal gathered pace with the launch of a pilot plant at Sci-Tech Daresbury earlier this year, bringing a significant increase in headcount and experience. Now, this $7M investment boost will enable Holiferm to build a world-leading biosurfactant manufacturing facility and fully commercialise its sustainable manufacturing process.

Led by US-based firm Rhapsody Venture Partners, this investment round demonstrates industry confidence in Holiferm and biosurfactants, as well as bringing exceptional support in growing a scale-up company and entering the US chemical market.

Forging a path for the biosurfactants of the future

The new commercial plant will produce 1,100 tonnes of biosurfactants a year for global supply, focusing initially on sophorolipid production for Holiferm’s existing customers and distributors, such as MixCleanGreen, Starbrands, Azelis and Eurosyn. Holiferm is also set to launch new biosurfactant products and is working in collaboration with BASF on the next two molecules in its pipeline.

The new manufacturing facility is earmarked for location in Wallasey, in the Northwest of England. It is anticipated that the investment programme will create over 30 new jobs in total.

Sophorolipids at a glance
• A class of biosurfactants providing excellent properties for cleaning, cosmetic and agricultural formulations.
• Produced by fermentation using a naturally occurring yeast found in honey.
• Process not reliant on genetically modified or pathogenic organisms, unlike some other biosurfactants.

Richard Lock, Managing Director of Holiferm, said: “At Holiferm, we’re trying to redefine what chemical manufacturing means. There’s a great misconception that it has to entail huge power stations and industrial plants, but we use a process that is completely green. We are working with a molecule that has been designed not by humans, but by nature. This fundraising round is another landmark moment in our quest to bring biosurfactants to the mass market. Rhapsody Venture Partners have so much experience and they match our drive and commitment in this endeavour, so we are excited to be working with them.”

Jason Whaley, General Partner at Rhapsody Venture Partners, said: “Holiferm's technology allows, for the first time, the production of clean and natural cleaning ingredients at a scale that makes them widely available to all consumers. At Rhapsody, we are excited by this potential and grateful for the opportunity to support the scale-up and manufacture of these products and to advance the biochemical industry generally.”

Peter van Gelderen, General Partner at co-investor Icos Capital, said: “We are very pleased with the fast progress that Holiferm has made, from breakthrough technology company in 2019, to a biosurfactant production company in 2021. They are already selling product and now ready to scale up and sell to chemical and FMGC companies worldwide that are committed to reducing carbon footprint and switching to bio-based ingredients for a wide range of applications.”

If you have any questions or would like to know more please feel free to contact us directly at Info@holiferm.com.