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FlexSea raises £3M in investments for seaweed-based biomaterial packaging tech

#FlexSea raises £3M in investments for seaweed-based biomaterial packaging tech

All image credits: FlexSea. 

27 Oct 2023 — UK-based FlexSea, a start-up developing seaweed-based bioplastic films, pellets and polymers, has landed €2.3 million (£2 million) in an equity Seed round led by Indico Capital Partners. The company has now raised over €3.4 million (£2.9 million), including €1.5 million (£1.5 million) in grants received from Innovate UK and other institutions.

FlexSea’s products are designed for use in dry food and non-food applications. The company claims the bioplastic films and rigid solutions are biodegradable in marine and soil environments within 8-12 weeks. 

The film is transparent and heat-sealable, allowing it to be used in more visually demanding applications. The pellets can be used in conventional plastic-making extrusion and injection machines.

Thibaut Monfort, co-founder and CTO of FlexSea, comments: “This is a turning point for the company as an entity and a great reward for the hard work and dedication of the whole team of ten amazing people who will benefit from this funding in their everyday research and development activities. We are heavily investing in equipment and machinery for in-house R&D, speeding up the process tremendously.”

No habitats are destroyed in the creation of seaweed farms, says FlexSea.The capital will be used in the UK and Portugal, where the company’s teams are based. Other funding partners include RedRice Ventures, Btomorrow Ventures, Food Foundry, Vala Capital, ICON Capital, and Pente Capital. 

Seaweed growth 
The production of FlexSea’s biomaterials does not require strong chemicals nor high temperatures above 150ºC, with water vapor as the sole by-product. 

Scraps and cuts wasted during the production process are also industrially recyclable. The company claims its manufacturing is, therefore, “100% sustainable.” 

FlexSea’s use of seaweed provides its greatest competitive advantage over other bioplastics companies, it claims. The type of seaweed used by FlexSea grows in 45-day cycles throughout the year without needing freshwater, arable land, pesticides or fertilizers.

“This investment will allow us to make significant progress and penetrate the market effectively. Indico has a significant track record of closely backing founders, and we are very happy to work together and with our other investors to take FlexSea to the next level,” says FlexSea’s CEO and co-founder, Carlo Fedeli.

Next steps 
A seaweed plant can grow up to 1 meter a day.The grant funding from Innovate UK will support work on a complementary technology to address waste produced when valuable products, called hydrocolloids, have been extracted from seaweed. 

“Now we are developing a technology to use that biomass, valorize it, and to increase the circularity of the whole seaweed industry,” says Fedeli.

According to Imperial College London, Fedeli first began thinking about biodegradable plastics during the COVID-19 pandemic while finishing an MSc in Innovation, Entrepreneurship & Management at Imperial College Business School. 

He says that plastic waste piling up from foodservice and other e-commerce deliveries drove him to begin actively searching for alternatives. 

Of the biodegradable plastics currently on the market, he also found that most had shortcomings. 

Some didn’t break down rapidly enough under day-to-day environmental conditions, and others involved unsustainable production methods. For example, plastics derived from seaweed are often made from brown seaweed, usually harvested from natural environments, rather than the commonly cultivated red seaweed.

By Louis Gore-Langton

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