Out of the lab and into the Pilot Plant

Here at Holiferm we have come a long way from our humble beginnings of a PhD student and his supervisor equipped with an innovative fermentation technology, to a team of 15, a functioning pilot plant and looking to build our first commercial plant in 2022.We at holiferm have achieved the "first successful scale up of integrated fermentation and separation for biosurfactants", But how did we get out of the lab and into the plant? It started with a molecule and a technology.


Holiferm’s separation technology has been proven, for sophorolipids, to facilitate efficient enough production to enable biosurfactants to compete with traditional petrochemical surfactants on the basis of price of production. Made by yeast originating from a Canadian honey bee hive, the produced sophorolipid has been shown to be an effective surfactant which has no toxicity and is completely biodegradable in the environment. Sophorolipids are the perfect replacement for many surfactants used in a range of markets, in particular the homecare or cosmetic markets. Finally it seemed like a biosurfactant could perhaps break the vicelike grip that unsustainable, petrochemical derived surfactants have on the global market.

Growing the yeast, growing the team

While the excellent productivity had already been achieved in smaller 2L and even in a 150L reactor, the process needed more testing and refining, a deeper more holistic understanding of the sophorolipid production process would be needed to successfully replicate our process metrics at industrial scale production and reach our technoeconomic objectives. As we perfected our understanding and process, we looked for talent to both aid us in our development to industrial scale production and also develop our connections within the surfactant market. We rapidly built an exceptional team to both refine process and correctly position the business within the surfactant market for when we reach commercial scale moving into a larger laboratory in the Manchester science park to provide space for the team.

With Holiferm’s fermentation process perfected, a 9 person expert team and laboratory in place, Holiferm began engaging with customers in earnest, providing samples for customer formulation development and building a distribution network.  Planning and preparing for Holiferm’s pilot plant then began, carefully scouting out possible locations as well as engaging with Solaris Biotech and BPES to insure our 600L reactor met our precise specifications. Daresbury was chosen for both it’s extensive infrastructure connections and the fantastic support of the Liverpool city region development fund which enabled us to rapidly build our pilot and team.

Gallons of Honeysurf!

In April 2021 Holiferm’s 15 strong team successfully completed the installation and first run of their 600L pilot bioreactor at Sci-tech Daresbury. Hundreds of kilograms of sophorolipid product have been produced and purified from the run and have been shipped for sale. We are taking giant steps towards achieving low cost, sustainable manufacture of green,  bio-surfactants. The pilot plant has a sophorolipid production capacity of 25 tonnes per annum, meaning we can now provide product tor our smaller commercial partners while giving samples to our larger partners to test in their own pilot facilities.

Looking forward...

At Holiferm we are not content to rest on our laurels and are currently fundraising for our planned Commercial 1 sophorolipid production facility. Commercial 1 will produce 1000 tonnes of sophorolipid per annum, allowing Holiferm to provide our larger commercial partners with the quantities of sophorolipids they need for their product formulations, at prices which are competitive with traditional surfactants. We will continue to refine our Honeysurf product quality and tighten our specifications.  Today we remain as obsessed with making our products quicker better and greener than when we began.

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