A STUDENT start-up is on track to revolutionise the animal and fish feed industries after winning £500,000 investment for its work on microalgae made from the by-products of whisky.

Douglas Martin founded MiAlgae three years ago while a masters student at the University of Edinburgh.

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It grows algae rich in omega-3 and other nutrients using co-products from the whisky distillation process, which can be used as raw material for agricultural food products.

MiAlgae initially targeted the aquaculture industry, whose future growth is predicted to require new sources of feed.

The investment comes from Equity Gap, the Scottish Investment Bank SIB), the investment arm of Scottish Enterprise, and the university’s venture fund Old College Capital, and will enable the firm to expand its team and build a pilot plant for its technology at a whisky distillery.

Martin said: “This is a huge deal for us. This investment will fund the initial scale-up steps and de-risk our commercial facility. It certainly sets us on track to achieve our ambitions.”

The £500,000 seed investment followed a series of competition and funding successes.

Martin obtained a Smart: Scotland grant in 2017 and has gone through the EU’s three-stage Climate-KIC Accelerator programme at the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation.

Competition success included Scottish EDGE, Young EDGE and Innovate UK, and he was a Shell LiveWIRE Young Entrepreneur of the Year. Martin also pitched at the final of the 2018 Scottish EDGE competition with the chance of being awarded an additional £100,000 of funding for the company.

SIB head Kerry Sharp said: “This is an exciting new equity investment for Scottish Enterprise into a company that has utilised the circular economy to make an innovative and valuable product. The funding round will also allow high value R&D employment opportunities to be created in rural Scotland with the roll out of the new pilot plant.

“A forward thinking, ambitious company, Scottish Enterprise has worked with MiAlgae since its very early stages of development helping it with innovation and financial readiness support, including a By Design grant which helped with the cost analysis of the pilot plant.”

Martin, who studied synthetic biology and biotechnology, has been supported by LAUNCH.ed, the university’s student entrepreneurs engagement service. This helped him to develop and launch the business, apply and pitch for grants and contests, as well as connect with investors.

Dr George Baxter, CEO of Edinburgh Innovations, the university’s industry engagement service that manages LAUNCH.ed, said: “It’s wonderful to see investors show confidence in Douglas and MiAlgae.

“The innovation of his process and the way it will help the environment have great potential. His journey shows what is possible for our entrepreneurial students, and we’re delighted to see MiAlgae reach this important milestone.”

Fraser Lusty, director at business angel group Equity Gap, said: “Douglas is an exceptional talent and has made remarkable progress in a novel solution for sustainable food production.”

Martin will be looking to expand the company’s production capacity 30-fold and will be expanding his team of two, to five.

He said MiAlgae was looking at multiple industries in the supply and product sides and diversification beyond feeds, adding: “There are lots of things we can do with our products.”