With each of our innovator stories, we get a chance to meet the people behind EU-funded ideas, which have the potential to change our future for the better. 


In our latest feature, we unveil our insightful discussion with Simo Ellilä, co-founder and CEO of eniferBio. This Finnish spin-off, stemming from the VTT Technical Research Centre, is dedicated to pioneering the future of the food system. At the core of eniferBio’s mission is the advancement of the PEKILO mycoprotein production process, the most efficient alternative protein procedure available. 

During December 2022, this startup took part in Deaflow.eu’s #Food e-pitching event. As a result, eniferBio received support from Dealflow.eu, including investor readiness training and introductions to potential investors. 

eniferBio’s journey is nothing short of remarkable. In 2020, they received €1M on a Seed round and, in 2021, they achieved a grant of €1.2M from the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF). By April 2023, eniferBio reached a significant milestone by concluding a Series A funding round, amassing €11M in investments. This funding round was led by Aqua-Spark, with additional contributions from Tesi, Valio, Voima Ventures, and Nordic Foodtech VC. 


We believe that we are in a position to be the world leader in enabling the production of sustainable, competitive mycoprotein ingredients

Tell us more about yourself and your work?

My name is Simo Ellilä and I am the CEO and one of the co-founders of eniferBio, a biotech startup based in Finland. I am a biochemist by training and, prior to spinning out eniferBio from VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland in 2020, I worked mainly as a scientist on upcycling byproducts into biofuels or biochemicals, working a lot with fungi and fermentation. The principle of biorefining and the use of fungi are core to what we now do at eniferBio, and it is great to be able to continue innovating in this space in a new role and setting.  


What problem is your product solving and what makes its solution unique?

Fungi are nature’s own recycling system. If you think about what happens to bits of wood or food that are discarded in nature, they will be eaten up and the nutrients recycled by fungi. Yet, we humans do not fully appreciate and utilize their remarkable abilities. At eniferBio we are working with our unique strain of fungus – nicknamed PEKILO – and using it in a fermentation process to convert different types of byproducts into nutritious mycoprotein ingredients. Quite uniquely for a new startup, we can claim more than 50 years of history for our technology. The PEKILO fermentation process was originally developed in Finland in 1963-1975 and used to convert forest industry by-products into feed protein for pigs and chicken at industrial scale in 1975-1991. It was in fact the world’s first commercial mycoprotein (protein derived from a fungus). We have taken this triedand-tested solution many steps further, broadening the scope of raw materials that can be used, and diversifying the product portfolio, so that we can produce mycoprotein for aquafeed, petfood and even directly for human consumption. 

What’s the biggest impact EU-funding has had on your journey so far, and can you specify an outcome? 

Early in our journey we were awarded a BlueInvest grant of 1.2M from the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) 2020 Blue Economy Window call. Considering that our Seed round was around 1M, this provided a very significant boost to our ability to pursue the application of our PEKILO mycoprotein in aquaculture. We have been able to optimize and pilot our fermentation process on a number of industrially relevant by-product streams and run several feeding trials in salmonids. We have come to learn that PEKILO is an excellent source of not only highquality protein, but also beta-glucan and nucleotides, which can contribute to fish health. Overall, the project has put us well on our way to establishing PEKILO as a unique protein source for aquaculture that can be produced within the EU, instead of importing unsustainable protein from across the world. 

We want to congratulate you on your recent fundraising achievement! What will you do with the secured investment? 

For the past 2.5 years, we have been working hard on consolidating the process on a variety of different by-product inputs and testing the mycoprotein ingredients in different use applications (like aquafeed and petfood). Now that we have a firm grasp of the process and market, a product-market fit if you like, we are ready to start pursuing our first industrial scale production units, which would produce thousands of tons. We have already carried out two early engineering studies to this end. We have also developed a food-grade version of PEKILO mycoprotein, and we will start seeking regulatory approval for its commercialization. This means compiling a thorough set of data proving the safety of our food-grade mycoprotein, which requires significant resources. 


What was the biggest challenge in your fundraising journey so far and how did you overcome it?  

I believe most people following the markets are aware that we have seen a dramatic downturn in VC funding since about Q2/2022, when financial markets tanked, and interest rates started to rise in the US and Europe. VC funds are getting smaller, they are investing less, and startup valuations are well down. This happened just as we started fund-raising for our Series A, so it was definitely an uphill battle. We overcame it with pure perseverance and “sisu” (unique Finnish term for grit or hardiness), talking to innumerable investors and finally finding the right match. As someone wise once saidwhen the dust settles, the ones left standing are the ones who have solid processes and unit economics – and we definitely believe we are in that group. In the end, this downturn will likely prove a healthy return to trend, and we will see less of the hot air that prevailed in 2020-2021.   


How do you see your company making a difference in the future?

We believe that mycoprotein will become as commonly known as soy protein or pea protein are today, ubiquitous in ingredient lists from feed to petfood to food. We believe that we are in a position to be the world leader in enabling the production of sustainable, competitive mycoprotein ingredients. 


Tell us your opinion on your experience with Dealflow.eu services. Why was it important for you?  

Dealflow.eu provides a very useful database to follow other startups and the general market. Dealflow.eu has also provided us with a chance to pitch our company, creating valuable new connections with investors.  


What is the next key milestone on your company’s roadmap? 

We hope to be able to provide updates on where and when we will see the return of industrial scale PEKILO mycoprotein production in the not-too-distant future!  

Article published by EurA AG.


About Innovator Spotlight Stories

The aim of innovator stories is to highlight and share with investors and relevant stakeholders in the industry, insights, and unique stories from some of the most innovative EU-funded project that Dealflow.eu is proud to support.

If you are an investor who wants to connect with eniferBio, please feel free to reach out at [email protected]

More about Dealflow.eu 

Supported by the European Commission, Dealflow.eu discovers and supports the most promising EU-funded innovators and connects them with relevant investors and corporates. The initiative was launched to help groundbreaking innovations secure the funding needed for their future commercialisation by offering them tailored support and matchmaking services. 

To learn more about Dealflow.eu, visit https://dealflow.eu/ 


Disclaimer: Funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the Directorate-General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology. Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.