the dangerous industrialization of start-ups, Innovation and Research

The search was long and tiring. But Algama finally found the rare pearl. The alternative protein start-up has taken over a factory in Liège (Belgium), a step that should allow it to change size.

After receiving almost a hundred proposals, the leader of Algama, Alvyn Severienvisited around 25 factories and settled on this 10,000 m² plot of land, which once housed a neon sign factory.

“It was the cheapest place to renovate”, he explains. It also had the advantage of being easily accessible by train from Paris. Production will begin later this year. In total, about thirty people will work on site.

Algama invents microalgae ingredients. The latter are used by manufacturers in mayonnaise, brioches or even biscuits, mainly as an egg substitute.

“Until then, we had several partners or laboratories that allowed us to produce. In Liège, everything will be gathered under one roof”, celebrates Alvyn Severien, who discovered microalgae products on Guadeloupe, the island where he spent part of his youth.

DNA change

The acquisition of this factory – whose value was not disclosed – was financed by a raising 13 million euros (which includes a portion of the debt) made with Noshaq, Newtree Impact, Beyond Impact and food industry groups: LDC, Grupo Bimbo and Thai Union Group.

After an R&D phase, industrial change is a major challenge for foodtechs developing alternative proteins, especially amid rising energy prices. It requires significant financial resources, but also human resources, because the start-up’s DNA is disturbed.

This is one of the reasons why Umiami, a plant-based meat start-up that raised 26.5 million euros in 2022, recruited Reechad Benyahia, a former heavyweight of various agri-food groups (Danone, Mondelez, etc. ) industrial stakes.

“I wanted to bring my experience to younger teams,” he explains. After opening a pilot site, Umiami has just purchased a factory of almost 14,000 m² in Alsace, which previously belonged to Unilever. A symbol of the transformation of the agri-food sector. The foodtech, which has yet to take over the entire existing site, plans to start production in the fourth quarter of 2023.

The new Umiami plant was previously occupied by Unilever.

preserve your secrets

Buying a plant gives freedom to the sprouts. “This will allow us to make multiple products,” Analysis by Alvyn Severien. On-site teams can check production standards and preserve trade secrets. “We are in for a revolutionary innovation”, remembers Reechad Benyahia. Umiami is proud to have developed a process that creates plant-based pieces of meat in one piece. Eventually, the company led by Tristan Maurel hopes to produce up to 20,000 tons in Alsace. Algama targets an annual production of up to 200,000 tons (egg equivalent).

If successful, companies expect duplicate this model. “We already have orders for other production sites. The markets we are able to serve are very large.”argues Alvyn Severien.

Not all food startups follow the same path. Nudj, a start-up that develops alternatives to jackfruit meat, chose to work with partners. Tossolia makes its galettes in Provence and Nutrition & Santé takes care of its nuggets in northern Spain.

Vida, partner at Sodebo

“There are many production plants installed in France that are underutilized. Manufacturers are looking to get the most out of their tool,” to remember Barthelemy Peuchot, co-founder of Nudj. Outsourcing allows you to limit your costs and focus only on your technological know-how.

La Vie, a vegetable bacon start-up that raised 25 million euros in 2022, opted for a hybrid model. The company has a small industrial unit, where it carries out its R&D, but has entrusted most of its production to Sodebo in Vendée. Whichever option is chosen, these start-ups are sure to face challenges. The market for alternative proteins remains embryonic in France and, in the United States, the pioneers of the sector (Beyond Meat, Impossible Foods) laid off employees in 2022, in a scenario of disappointing sales.

Assistance: First factory (industrial and deeptech start-ups)
application deadline : December 15, 2026.
Entrepreneur Profile : SMEs and IET with projects for implementing pilot installations and/or industrial production, aimed at marketing innovative products and adding pre-industrial capabilities to the benefit of start-ups. Candidate projects must have a total expenditure base of more than €5 million.
Folks : the aid will be granted in the form of grants and recoverable advances, distributed according to a ratio of 60% grants and 40% recoverable advances.
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