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Bath-based sustainable biotech Kelpi raises £320K to develop bioplastic packaging

Bath-based Kelpi is a sustainable biotech startup that focuses on bio-refining seaweed to make bioplastic packaging that is home compostable and marine safe. The company just landed a £320K pre-seed funding, which £95K came from Innovate UK ‘Combined Investor Partnership’ grant landed through SETsquared’s highly successful Regional Angel Investment Accelerator (RAIA) programme and the rest was from Bristol Private Equity Club (BPEC) and other angel investors.

Scale up development of bioplastic packaging

Kelpi will use the funds to scale up the development of prototype bioplastic packaging that is compostable, marine-safe and carbon-negative. Over the last year the company has been developing solutions in the laboratory to replace single-use fossil fuel plastics with high-performance bioplastic made from seaweed.

“This landmark investment enables Kelpi to advance its work as one of just a handful of companies worldwide using seaweed to create entirely new bioplastic packaging solutions,” said Kelpi co-founder and CEO Neil Morris. “We set out to play a part in eliminating plastic pollution and enabling net zero. This funding will allow us to accelerate progress towards achieving that goal using seaweed – a natural, renewable biomass that has huge potential to sequester carbon and sustainably address climate change.”

The investment represents the first significant investment of BPEC’s new Seed division focused on early-stage businesses. BPEC Seed’s Pete Lockett said: “Kelpi stood out to us as a strong combination of world-leading scientific innovation with great entrepreneurial experience. Co-founders Neil, Murray and Chris have established a business which can deliver profit and purpose, playing a vital role in addressing climate change and impacting on plastic pollution.”

Jerry Barnes, founder of BPEC said: “As the largest and most active Angel Investor in the South West, we are delighted to once again invest in a highly innovative SME in the region that can become a world-leader with the right support. Our Seed division was set up this year specifically to enable our members to support start-ups and it works well alongside the RAIA programme.”

Rosie Bennett, SETsquared Investment Manager, said: “Once again the RAIA programme has demonstrated that we have a strong pipeline of highly innovative deep tech businesses in the Southwest. Kelpi is a great company that will now benefit from the combined funding of committed angel investment and grant-funding to further their exciting and vital work to replace fossil fuel plastics in packaging in the UK and worldwide.”

Packaging with lowest recycling rates

Currently, more than 99 percent of plastics are produced from chemicals derived from oil, natural gas and coal — all of which are dirty, non-renewable resources. If current trends continue, by 2050 the plastic industry could account for 20 percent of the world’s total oil consumption, according to the United Nations Environment Programme.

Kelpi focuses particularly on thin films which have some of the lowest recycling rates of any plastic, with less than 1 percent being recycled in the UK according to WWF. Already, Kelpi has sourcing agreements in place with seaweed suppliers in Europe, as well as Asia where most of the world’s seaweed is currently cultivated.

Kelpi’s compostable bioplastic packaging for food is now a step closer to the supermarket shelves, replacing single-use fossil fuel plastics which take hundreds of years to decompose.