Agricultural waste conversation startup Bygen banks $2.6 million Series A

- April 16, 2024 2 MIN READ
A startup turning agricultural waste into activated carbon, which is used to filter environmental toxins, has raised $2.6 million in a Series A.

Government-backed investment fund Breakthrough Victoria chipped in $1 million, joined by VCs Alberts Impact Ventures, Investible, Artesian and Startmate.

The funds will support the testing and establishment of Bygen’s large-scale production plant, with future plans to build more commercial plants in Australia and overseas. Bygen hopes to create up to 65 new jobs in Victoria over the next five years.

The green tech startup was originally founded by researchers Dr Lewis Dunnigan and Ben Morton at the University of Adelaide in 2018, having raised $350,000.

Their pilot plant experimented with agricultural wastes including almond shells, sawdust, pomace and rice husks as both as a source of carbon and heat for the activation process. Nut shells seem to be a winner and the business is now headquartered in Melbourne.

Bygen hopes to replace the coal-based activation process, cutting not only CO2 emissions and water consumption but also the cost of producing activated carbon.

The product can be used for drinking water treatment, gold recovery, and other filtering, including air (its used in car cabin filters). The market is projected to be worth US9.4 billion by 2032.

Another key application is removing PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances), a manufactured chemical from the environment, where it accumulates and does not degrade. PFAS is found in carpets, clothes and non-stick cookware, but its use in fire-fighting foams has caused the greatest alarm in Victoria, amid cancer concerns and more than a decade of political controversy. The Country Fire Authority’s Fiskville Training College is heavily contaminated with PFAS and it’s also become a major problem at Defence sites around Australia.

Bygen’s production process enables higher adsorption of PFAS through its activated carbon.

CEO Dr Lewis Dunnigan said they were thrilled to have impact investors such as Alberts, Investible and Breakthrough Victoria back the company.

“As we continue to grow our production capacity and expand the positive environmental impact that our sustainable activated carbon has in the market, having supportive backers like this is crucial,” he said.

Breakthrough Victoria CEO Grant Dooley said Bygen is now an outstanding Victorian company.

“We’re investing in an innovative technology that not only creates value across multiple sectors through a circular economy approach, but also reduces the carbon footprint associated with the use of activated carbon in Victoria,” he said.

Alberts head of strategy Glenn Bartlett said the company Bygen exemplifies the VCs focus on a sustainable future.

“We were attracted by the resilient and dogged nature of Lewis and his team and the dual positive impact of the Bygen product,” he said.

“Not only is it used primarily to clean up and purify the environment but it does so by capturing CO2 in the process. A total win/win.”

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