Hong Kong start-up Geb Impact looks to scale up microalgae cultivation as a sustainable source of protein
- Geb Impact is conducting pilot production of microalgae with its proprietary technology, with plans to ramp up output to one metric tonne per month
- The Hong Kong Innovation and Technology Fund has funded half of the start-up’s HK$2 million (US$257,000) project to scale up microalgae cultivation
“We are able to produce that protein sustainably, so if we become the supplier [for food manufacturers] in terms of that protein, there is no limit to how much they can produce,” said James Chang, founder and chief executive of Geb Impact.
Microalgae are single-cell microorganisms found in fresh and salt water that grow through photosynthesis, consuming carbon dioxide and producing oxygen. As microalgae do not compete for natural resources or farmland, they are considered one of the most promising sustainable sources of food ingredients.
The global plant-based food market is expected to reach US$74.2 billion by 2027, growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 11.9 per cent from 2020 to 2027, according to a report by market intelligence provider Meticulous Research in September 2020.
“The pandemic has led to some best practice models for the plant-based products industry as the coronavirus epidemic has conveyed to the forefront the connection between public health and animal meat consumption, which provides consumers a ground to go for a plant-based diet,” Meticulous Research analysts wrote. “From a manufacturing and distributing point of view, this industry has faced unprecedented demand from manufacturers as well as consumers.”
Founded in 2013, Geb Impact is currently conducting pilot production of microalgae with its proprietary technology at their 13,000 sq ft facility in Sheung Shui. Their product: a freeze-dried microalgae powder containing dietary proteins, lipids and vitamins can be used as an ingredient in different food products.
The company aims to produce one metric tonne of microalgae powder per month and has partnered with Sweet Secrets, a health-conscious bakery, to create plant-based cupcakes with microalgae frosting. It also has a tie-up with plant-based culinary nutrition platform Our Conscious Kitchen to create an antioxidant spice blend.
The company hopes to partner with more restaurants, bakeries and chefs to bring microalgae-based food products to more consumers in Hong Kong, before expanding into China and the rest of south Asia, where there is a growing vegan market, said Chang.
Geb Impact has also launched Eiyoka Algae Foods to showcase proof-of-concept products incorporating microalgae, such as their shrimp roe noodles which can be bought online.
The start-up has received a grant from the Hong Kong Innovation and Technology Fund under the government’s Enterprise Support Scheme, funding half of their HK$2 million (US$257,000) project to scale up microalgae cultivation.
Impact investment firm Dao Foods International has also invested in Geb Impact to further develop microalgae cultivation and help extend their product reach into China.
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Geb Impact was also looking for series A investment over the next two years, to hire new professionals and buy more equipment to scale their production and increase capacity to reach industrial levels.
“Ingredient companies are better positioned in the current environment of greater social and environmental awareness from consumers,” Credit Suisse Research Institute wrote in a report in June.
“We anticipate that ingredient companies will gain a greater share of the value chain as they aid manufacturers in improving innovation and speed to market.”