March 26, 2024

How two blue biotech founders are scaling bioplastics with seaweed

Unlocking international collaboration to scale new materials

At the 2023 HackSummit, FlexSea’s team crossed paths with Yoshinori Nishikawa and Chihiro Imakita from Invest in Kobe.

Since then, the team at Invest Kobe have linked ForSea up with various companies in FMCG and biotech sectors.

En route on the Shinkansen (bullet train) through Japan to make these partnerships happen, we caught up with Co-Founder
Thibaut Monfort Micheo to get the low down.

The back story

FlexSea’s origins go back to the days of Covid lockdowns where Carlo Fedeli, Co-Founder and CEO, was surprised by the sheer amount of packaging used for home delivered groceries.

And so he started exploring other, more sustainable options. 

After some initial research he built a lab on his balcony and came up with FlexSea’s first prototype. 

Together with his friend Thibaut Monfort Micheo, bringing his technical knowledge, they joined forces to take this material to the next level - both technically and commercially. 

Fast forward to today, FlexSea recently closed a £2 million seed round. 

Enabling them to swap their 150 sqm unit in London for a 700 sqm one in Wolverhampton, UK. 

The investment means they can now scale up with new employees, new machines and new offices. 

Some of the funding will also go towards completing their part of the £1.7m worth of projects awarded through grants which are majority funded by the UK government, with key partnerships to scale up production and confirm product quality.

Now the team is tackling the market with commercial pilots on their injection moldable bioplastic pellet grades. 

Thibaut tells us, ‘’we are approaching the ton of material sold, which truly demonstrates traction and appetite from our partners and clients.’’

How does it compare to conventional plastic?

The biotech startup’s technology tackles both the upstream - raw material being seaweed and other natural ingredients, sustainably farmed, biobased 100% - and the downstream with a home compostable alternative which can be treated like a food or a garden waste. 

By partnering with a seaweed farm and University their LCA aims to further demonstrate the global impact of their material.

Thibaut tells us, “we also have the unique ability to use the full seaweed and waste streams of its extraction/processing thanks to our biotechnological processes which allows the creation of novel materials from the bacterial processing of those waste streams for a holistic and circular approach to the material unlike most of our competitors.”

What does scale look like for FlexSea? 

Regarding the bioplastics part, FlexSea will have the capabilities to produce up to 100 tons a year with a new machine and have developed partnerships to push that within the 10's of thousands which is a Y5-like figure. 

Making partnerships with:

- End product users
- End product/semi-finished products manufacturers 

For the Biotech aspect, the plan is to scout the demand on the materials and use that traction to reinforce the relationships with seaweed processors and start building a pilot processing plant within their premises to demonstrate waste valorisation purposes and added value. 

Making partnerships with:

- Downstream processing 
- Companies with expertise in fermentation capacities
- Anyone using those novel materials eg cosmetic companies

They’ll be joining us back to the HackSummit for a third year, so we wanted to know what brings them back each year.

“This event is very family-vibes! People of various industries, scales and backgrounds meet, yet they share a common goal and work in fairly similar ways so it is ideal to find investors, but also corporate partners and even fellow startups to collaborate on pilot projects. 

The quality of the venue technically speaking is also remarkable and it is often our busiest event of the year with a very curious and engaged public,” shares Thibaut.

What’s next for FlexSea?

Thibaut gives us the inside story on what’s in the pipeline

“Selling multiple tons of material to show that we are not all about words and commercial stunts but about actual impact and volumes. 

Then truly achieve a final product, complete more certifications like food contact on top of our compostability one. 

For biotech, scaling the processes from our lab <10L process to industrial 1000L and above tanks. 

We will also start the fundraise for our Series A around the end of Q3 this year.”

Meet the FlexSea team at their booth at this year’s HackSummit on June 13-14th.

They’ll be ready to talk investment, new materials and collaboration to the hundreds of attendees passing their booth.

Final few Startup Booths Remaining. Get yours for just 1,000 CHF today (includes 2x Summit passes).