Bristol-based climate tech innovator, Kelpi, has secured more than £3 million in fundraising to advance its pioneering technology creating biomaterial coatings from seaweed.

The funding round will bring sustainable packaging for the food & drink and cosmetics sectors a step closer to supermarket shelves. Kelpi’s unique coatings will enable recyclable and home- or industrially-compostable packaging to replace single-use fossil fuel plastics which take hundreds of years to decompose.  

Exciting, the seed round was led by Bristol-based deep tech incubator, Science Creates Ventures, and Green Angel Syndicate. Additional funding has come from One Planet Capital and follow-on investment from Bristol Private Equity Club (BPEC), together with private angel investors. The round includes £665,000 of grant funding from Innovate UK’s Combined Investor Partnership.

“This landmark investment enables Kelpi to scale up our pioneering work using seaweed to create bioplastic packaging with the barrier properties required by clients”

Kelpi will use the funds to conduct manufacturing pilots for their proprietary coatings for paper and card. It comes at a pivotal time in the scaleup’s journey. Throughout the last 2.5 years, the company has developed high-performance materials from seaweed, with a uniquely strong water barrier, as well as oxygen barrier, grease and acid resistance.

The company is already working with global leaders in food & drink and cosmetics, tuning the exact properties of the coatings to meet the needs of specific clients. In many cases, Kelpi materials can match or even exceed the performance of fossil fuel plastic, but in a material that is renewably sourced, marine-safe, compostable and enables the packaging to be recycled after use.

Offering a green alternative to plastic

“This landmark investment enables Kelpi to scale up our pioneering work using seaweed to create bioplastic packaging with the barrier properties required by clients,” says Kelpi CEO and co-founder Neil Morris.

“Kelpi can now play a key role in eliminating plastic pollution and ending our dependence on fossil fuels to create single-use packaging. We’re delighted to receive this backing from specialist deep science and sustainability investors like Science Creates Ventures and Green Angel Syndicate to allow us to accelerate our pioneering work with major food and drink companies worldwide to prove our materials at scale.”  

“Only 9% of all plastic waste ever produced has been recycled”

Seaweed provides a particularly valuable source of carbohydrates for biomaterials. It grows prolifically without need for fertilisers, nor land nor fresh water – offering benefits over alternative plants from which bioplastics can be made. It soaks up carbon as it grows, de-acidifying and re-oxygenating the ocean.

Commenting on why the team decided to lead on this raise, Dr Catherine Fletcher, Principal of Science Creates Ventures tells us, “Kelpi stood out to us as a strong combination of world-leading scientific innovation with deep entrepreneurial experience. They’re using deep tech to address a highly valuable commercial challenge and we’re excited to be backing the company to scaleup its solutions in the vital area of reducing fossil fuel dependence in plastics.”

Only 9% of all plastic waste ever produced has been recycled. 12% has been incinerated and the remaining 79% is dumped in landfills, or polluting the environment. Right now more than 99% of plastics are produced from chemicals derived from oil, natural gas and coal. If current trends were to continue, by 2050 the plastic industry could account for 20% of the world’s total oil consumption, according to the United Nations Environment Programme.

Cam Ross, CEO of Green Angel Syndicate, explains why they were also enthusiastic about backing Kelpi: “Our network of specialist members was impressed with Kelpi’s team and technology, and their pioneering approach to developing biopolymers from renewable feedstocks like seaweed. At scale, the Kelpi approach will play a vital role in reducing fossil fuel dependency, addressing climate change, and impacting on plastic pollution.”

The rise of impressive green alternatives to our current polluting and harmful practices brings hope that we can opt for the eco-friendly solution more often than not. And of course, we’re thrilled Bristol is set to be at the helm of this crucial progress.

Shona Wright

Shona covers all things editorial at TechSPARK. She publishes news articles, interviews and features about our fantastic tech and digital ecosystem, working with startups and scaleups to spread the word about the cool things they're up to. She also oversees TechSPARK's social media, sharing the latest updates on everything from investment news to green tech meetups and inspirational stories.