West Cork seaweed biotech start-up nets €1.5m seed funding

Pure Ocean Algae said it has developed the first commercial platform to produce Dulse, a type of seaweed which costs more than €120 per kilogram.

Irish biotech start-up Pure Ocean Algae has bagged €1.5m in seed funding to invest in its business platform and expand its presence in West Cork and beyond.

Founded in 2019, Pure Ocean Algae describes itself as a macroalgae-based biotechnology company that has developed the first commercial end-to-end production platform to produce the red seaweed Palmaria palmata, commonly known as Dulse.

Dulse is a highly valuable red macroalgae species used in the pharmaceutical, cosmetics and food industries. With significant amounts of protein, this type of seaweed – which grows well in Irish conditions – can cost more than €120 per dried kilogram, according to the company.

However, owing to the climate crisis and other factors such as exploitation and destruction of its natural habitat, such natural resources are coming under increasing pressure. This is where Pure Ocean Algae comes in.

The start-up, which is expanding its team from five to 12 full-time employees, operates its own land-based hatchery, nursery and processing facility while also developing 80 hectares of licensed sea sites for growing various seaweed species.

The latest investment, led by The Yield Lab, will be used to expand existing facilities to cater for 250 hectares of sea site production and other services. Working with existing seaweed farmers, Pure Ocean Algae hopes to expand its production area to 500 hectares over the next three years.

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CEO and founder Michael O’Neill said the investment will allow the start-up to expand its R&D and implementation teams, as well as pursue international collaborations to bring its products to a global audience. Pure Ocean Algae is one of Enterprise Ireland’s high-potential start-ups.

“Given the ever-increasing evidence of global warming and its impacts on our lives and for future generations, it is imperative that we investigate new and innovative solutions to slow its progress and ultimately reverse the damage caused by man-made climate change,” he said.

The Yield Lab is one of Europe’s largest early-stage agritech investors, supported by Enterprise Ireland and AIB. It is joined by West Cork-based Carbery Group, US-based Sea-ahead Blue Angel Group and Enterprise Ireland in backing Pure Ocean Algae in its latest seed funding round.

David Bowles, managing partner at The Yield Lab Europe, said that the blue, or marine, economy is currently a very vibrant space and “critical for Europe to deliver on its climate commitments”.

“At The Yield Lab, we have seen a lot of companies that are attempting to deliver seaweed-related solutions and we were very impressed with the quality and sophistication of what the team in Beara have delivered. We had no hesitation in investing in such a world-leading product.”

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