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BioVeritas, a company that uses fermentation to upcycle food and agricultural waste into ingredients and other applications, received an additional $65 million this week from its majority shareholder Ara Partners.
The company says it is making progress on scaling up its process. The funds will be used to upgrade its facility to deliver large-scale samples to potential customers in the first quarter of 2023.
Upcycled food has become more popular in recent years as consumers became concerned with food waste. BioVeritas takes upcycling a step further than many other companies, using fermentation processes to turn the waste into a different sort of ingredient.
BioVeritas is on the cusp of two big trends in food: Fermentation and upcycling. But the company says it has been working on this technology for nearly three decades, starting at Texas A&M University with the initial intent of creating biofuels.
In the last decade, the company turned its attention toward ingredients. Its market development unit, where it produces its products, opened in 2018. Ara Partners, which focuses on decarbonization technologies, took a majority stake in BioVeritas in 2021.
BioVeritas offers an attractive proposition to the sustainability-minded food manufacturer. It starts with food waste — broken pasta is a common input — and ends with something useful. One of the company’s major product lines is a mold inhibitor for baked goods. BioVeritas offers a somewhat circular proposition: It takes wasted food and makes a product that could extend shelf life, therefore decreasing more food waste.
The company also makes ingredients that typically come from petrochemicals.
Fermenting food waste is a more natural way to produce these ingredients, making a cleaner process for ingredients already known to be beneficial. BioVeritas says it also recycles most of what it uses, and waste products are only carbon dioxide, compost and potable water. The company compares its process to what happens in a cow’s digestive system — just without the methane emissions.
The mold inhibitor BioVeritas makes comes from propionic acid. The company says this creates a natural and clean-label version of the chemical, which it claims works better at preventing mold than other natural ingredients used for preservation.
BioVeritas makes other ingredients that have uses for human food and beyond as well. Its process produces postbiotics such as butyric acid and valeric acids, which are often used for aviation and refrigeration lubrication, as well as cosmetics, flavors and fragrances.
BioVeritas says on its website that while it’s done most of its input work with broken pasta, it has tested more than 30 other feedstocks, most of which are food waste. These include alfalfa, sugarcane pulp, pineapple cores and skins, post-harvest plant material from corn, orange peels and bakery waste.
The company has plans to build a commercial-scale facility that can produce up to 20 kilotons (44 million pounds) of ingredients a year starting in 2025. This funding will help BioVeritas reach the milestones it needs — and show manufacturers the performance of its ingredients — to make that a reality.
If BioVeritas can scale up its process and ingredients, its products could quickly become popular among manufacturers, and potentially spark wider interest in using fermentation of food waste to make other beneficial ingredients.