Why Scaleups like Sophie’s Bionutrients are Flocking to Food (not Silicon) Valley
Six months ago, micro-algae protein pioneer Sophie’s Bionutrients decided to move its Singapore headquarters to the global alt-protein hotspot “Food Valley” in The Netherlands. Since then, the biotech scaleup found specialized production partners, has completed its C-level suite with Dutch talent, identified specialist support in various areas, is signing commercial agreements and and is on the verge of closing the next round of fund raising. What enabled this very speedy ‘landing’?
“The highly developed ‘Food Valley’ eco-system is similar to that of Silicon Valley, but focused on ag- and foodtech”, says Eugene Wang, Founder and Co-CEO. “It started with a program called Go Beyond, designed to attract international scaleups to The Netherlands. This brought me mentor Willem Sodderland, who ultimately became our Scaleup Director and Co-CEO. We teamed up and started using his connections. In weeks we found a protein extraction specialist that we had not been able to find in Singapore in 2 years”.
Everything accelerated when Sophie’s caught the eye of accelerators StartLife and Planet B.io. Recognizing the team was on the brink of commercialization, StartLife chose to offer tailored support — and a few months later, Sophie’s Bionutrients opened its European office on the WUR campus. This move has enabled Sophie’s Bionutrients to access high-level talent to build a world-class team in the Netherlands, and get out of the lab and onto the factory floor.
“The last six months have been instrumental in our growth. With the unwavering support of StartLife and Planet Bio, we are rapidly exploring the limitless possibilities of microalgae-based protein alternatives and carving a sustainable future for the food industry,” added Mr. Wang.
“As the hub of agrifoodtech innovation, Food Valley is the ideal springboard for Sophie’s Bionutrients to take the next step in its journey to market. The sheer talent and innovation in Europe have enabled us to move at an incredible pace, as we seek to bring microalgae-based protein to millions globally,” said Willem Sodderland, Scale-up Director at Sophie’s Bionutrients.
Accelerating commercialization in Europe’s heart of plant-based innovation
Sophie’s Bionutrients is one of only a handful of Singaporean companies that have successfully made the move to Europe. With Asia lagging behind Europe significantly in novel proteins, the Netherlands was the logical stepping stone to take Sophie’s Bionutrients’ revolutionary microalgae-based proteins to the world.
Since opening in Europe, the team has been able to move onto the factory floor and use all factory equipment simultaneously to increase development speed. The company has access to high-level research in local Dutch universities including WUR, the world’s best agricultural university. StartLife and Planet Bio have also provided investor introductions to help bring Sophie’s Bionutrients to market.
Earth Day: Investing in the planet with microalgae-based protein
Sophie’s Bionutrients’ six-month anniversary in Food Valley coincides with Earth Day, the global movement that encourages leaders to “Invest in our Planet”. In the battle to meet future population growth in a sustainable way, microalgae is one of the most promising candidates as it provides maximum nutritional value with minimal footprint.
Sophie ‘s Bionutrients embraces the circular economy by feeding microalgae strains with upcycled side streams from other food manufacturing processes. Microalgae-based proteins also require significantly less land, time, water, and energy use compared to traditional animal proteins or plant-based alternatives such as pea and soy. Moreover, fermentation does not require the use of harmful contaminants or pesticides. In spearheading the shift to microalgae, Sophie’s Bionutrients is poised to revolutionize agriculture and enable a more sustainable future for all.