Bloom is booming
Trailblazing tech turns biomass into petroleum alternative
Their mission is crystal clear. They want to provide solutions that drive the transition from linear fossil-resources to circular, plant-based models. The ground-breaking and patented technology of 2018 ClimateLaunchpad participant Bloom creates chemicals and fuels from plant material. With their biorefining solutions they are able to manufacture a number of products: from fine and bulk chemicals to polyester, composites, fibers and fuels and fuel additives.
Their achievements are gaining traction in the cleantech domain. It was this message on LinkedIn that led us to pick up the phone for a chat about their recent successes:
A week after Bill Gates published his book on how to avoid a climate disaster, his investment fund announced its first investment in a Swiss startup: Bloom Biorenewables Ltd, a spin-off from EPFL (École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne). Congratulations to founders Florent Héroguel & Remy Buser!
“We currently have about 20 pilot projects going on with customers, mainly in Europe.”
Florent Héroguel, COO & co-founder of Bloom Biorenewables: “Our goal is to use this seed round for product development, scaling technology and market validation. We are solving last technical challenges and validating commercial leads before moving on to the next phase. In other words, with this investment we can really move forward.”
“What we do is getting very trendy, more and more customers are demanding sustainable ingredients from manufacturers.”
Our technology is extremely powerful and simple
Florent: “The challenge is huge. So many products are made from carbon, and almost all carbon comes from fossil sources. Replacing petroleum as a source for paints, plastics, perfumes, fuels and fuel additives is a massive opportunity.
We make it possible to go beyond current limitations in the search for sustainable alternatives. From biomass, we efficiently separate the cellulose fraction while stabilizing lignin polymer and hemicellulose-derived sugars. Our aldehyde-assisted fractionation (AAF) technology lets us isolate and extract very pure lignin, cellulose and hemicellulose. These stabilized structures allow, for the first time, to valorize the full potential of lignin and hemicellulose. This allows us to create a true alternative for petroleum.
Our technology is extremely simple. We suspend biomass into a big batch, add ingredients and stir it at 80 degrees. It’s almost as easy as cooking, which facilitates scaling-up. The technology is already protected by three patents while the company keeps strengthening its IP portfolio.
Big demand for what we do
We will act as a tech provider and supply the exact recipes to use in a licensing model. Our clients could be petrochemistry companies, using their infrastructure but sourcing biomass as input instead of petroleum.
There is a big demand for what we do. More and more customers are demanding sustainable ingredients from manufacturers. Luckily, we have a unique positioning, with integral biomass valorization, cost-competitivity, high quality and sustainable sourcing.
We currently have about 20 pilot projects going on with customers, mainly in Europe. In the B2B market, every deal is really big, million euros. We call them pilot projects, because we cannot deliver a ton of each product yet. All these projects result in customer feedback, that helps us improve products and grow.
Our first customer was a company in the fragrance industry, attracted by our ability to produce sustainable aromas from wood while the market is dominated by petro-derived molecules. For instance, only 1% of the vanillin (the main aroma from vanilla) on the global market originates from vanilla orchid, most of the rest being sourced from crude oil.”
- Atmospheric CO2 is efficiently captured by plants which can be used as a sustainable carbon source to manufacture products of our daily life
- Bio-circular economy replaces linear petro-based processes
- The process minimizes carbon footprint during transformation of plants into final products thanks to unprecedented efficiency
- The products are designed to have low impact at end-of life
- Additional revenues can be generated from agricultural side-streams which enable a fair distribution of profits
“We really want to promote the shift towards a green and circular society. To get there we need to reduce the dependency on petroleum and other fossil fuels. Using less plastics is part of the solution, but the big effort lies in swapping fossil for renewable sources. Biomass-sourced carbon really helps, because then you don’t need to extract petroleum every day. Being bio-based is not enough so we ensure that all of the products are sustainable at end of life. For instance, we design bio-plastics which are biodegradable. This is how we build a truly circular economy; all materials go back to nature. We help our clients build an endless loop.
Being a zero-waste company is our aim, we are now at 80% biomass valorization towards materials where 30% is the standard. We plan to use the 20% leftover as a fuel to produce heat on the facility in the near future. That way we can get to 100% valorization.”
“We are building a truly circular economy. All materials go back to nature.”
We grew into a real business
“So much has happened since we started and since we participated in ClimateLaunchpad in 2018. We were just three co-founders with some nice ideas. In just a few short years we grew to an entire team of people that share the same ambition and dedication. We have a big network of industrial and academic partners. And a team of supporters and partners around us who believe in the company. We are now much stronger, no longer alone in our vision.
Indeed, we evolved big time. From a small research group, we became a real company with a healthy structure with nine people working full time. We have a lawyer, an accountant, we pay taxes, we have our own premises. And it is a lot of fun and we are all extremely dedicated to make it succeed. That comes with a lot of pressure. Of course, nobody is forcing us – we just have this intrinsic drive.
“We are all extremely dedicated to making it succeed.”
Our participation in ClimateLaunchpad came at the right time. It really helped us to see things clearly and to gain visibility. We gained a lot of new friends, a big network. We’re still in touch with some of the Swiss teams. We really feel part of the community.”
“Set clarity and be selective. The biggest challenge is to stay focused. Focus on the most promising lead and push it to the end. Before you know it, you are diluting your energy into too many directions. Focus, focus, focus. Balance your limited resources with the endless ideas and possibilities. Don’t hesitate to pilot. Think fast and go into another direction if needed. Be flexible.”