- Founders: Juliana Romero
- Founded in: Wageningen
- Employees: 8
- Money raised: -
- Ultimate goal: To remove refined ingredients from the food industry
Canola seed, a variant of rapeseed, is one of the world’s most widely used oilseed crops. Although the seeds are primarily used around the world for the extraction of their oil, they have a lot more healthy nutrients on offer, such as fiber and protein. Start-up Cano-ela is harnessing the full potential of the seeds through a novel technique. In this episode of Start-up of the day, founder and CEO Juliana Romero talks to us about how it works.
Why and for whom is your new technique relevant?
“At present, only 60% of the seed is used during the processing of canola seeds. The rest is either just thrown away or, at best, used as animal feed. This is a shame, because there are a lot of nutrients in the remaining part of the seeds. We aim to extract more micronutrients, such as vitamins and minerals, so that they can be reused later. So, with our new technique, we are tackling the waste problem while ensuring that food companies in turn have the raw materials to base healthy products on.”
How does the extraction process work?
“Our patented process enables us to separate the different components of the seed. This makes it possible to extract not only the oil from the seed, but also, for example, proteins and carbohydrates. In concrete terms, it is a matter of first soaking the seeds in water and then treating them with chemical and physical processes. This all happens under very mild conditions. For example, the seeds are not exposed to high temperatures. This preserves all the vitamins and minerals.”
Do the ingredients you extract fit in with the Western diet?
“Absolutely. To give you an example: Canola seeds contain fiber which contains a lot of antioxidants, as much as there are in blueberries. You can add these fibers to products that we in the West like to eat. You can then eat, for instance, your normal daily sandwich, but it then contains much more healthy nutrients. So thanks in part to our solution, you don’t have to change your entire diet to eat healthier.”
How is the start-up faring at this point?
“We are currently working with food companies that take samples from us. One of the things we are looking at is the shelf life of our products. We are working on scaling up too, so that we can soon offer our ingredients on an industrial scale. At the end of last year, we successfully attracted our first private investor and now we are looking for even more investors so that we can scale up. Moreover, we are looking for more companies who want to team up with us and set up pilots.”
What challenges are you currently running into?
“We find that many companies are enthusiastic about our products. But our team is quite small. I notice that it is sometimes pretty difficult to be patient and take things one step at a time. Maybe we will find out that it is better to focus on one or two products, instead of three. In any case, it is really great to see that the market is open to our technique and products.”
What do you hope to have achieved in five years?
“By then, I hope that the production process is going well and that we are already producing on a large scale in a factory. Moreover, the start-up should be independent of subsidies or external investment and be able to exist on its own merits. And of course, I hope that by then we will have entered into a lot of partnerships with as many food companies as possible, so that we can increase our impact on the waste process and on food quality.”
Cano-ela is part of F&A Next this year. F&A Next is an international event organized by Wageningen University and Research, Rabobank, Anterra Capital, and StartLife. The event connects food and agriculture startups to investors, serving as a springboard to greater innovation.