Startup ÄIO Turning Sawdust into Alternative Oils for the Food Industry
ÄIO, an Estonian biotech startup, has raised $1.2 million to help with their development of an alternative oil that serves as a substitute for environmentally depleting oils like coconut and palm. The alternative oil is produced through a fermentation process from agricultural and lumber industry side-streams, using a microbe the company calls “red bug.” This microbe, patented by cofounder Nemailla Bonturi, turns sawdust into food oils by creating rich fats full of antioxidants and fatty acids. Funding was provided by Nordic Foodtech VC and others, to help ÄIO increase production, apply for permits, and move toward industrial-scale production by 2026.
More sustainable alternatives to environmentally depleting options is always a plus. Palm oil, the most widely consumed vegetable oil, is a significant contributor to deforestation in some of the world’s most biodiverse forests. Estimates say that up to 5% of deforestation in tropical forests can be linked to palm oil harvesting. Not only will ÄIO’s product utilize waste material from the agricultural industry, it has the potential to mitigate negative impacts of the most popular oils in the food industry.