Activated carbon startup Bygen secures $2.6m in Series A round to scale production

Activated carbon startup Bygen secures $2.6m in Series A round to scale production

Photo: Bygen, via Facebook

Melbourne-based Bygen, a startup that aims to turn agricultural waste into activated carbon, has raised $2.6 million in a Series A funding round that has attracted Breakthrough Victoria, Alberts Impact Ventures and Investible as new investors.

Existing shareholders Artesian and Startmate have also participated in the round which will be used to accelerate deployment of Bygen’s unique “low-temperature activation” (LTA) technology that enables the production of sustainable and high-quality activated carbon.

Breakthrough Victoria has invested $1 million in the Series A round with the state government’s investment arm recognising the merits of Bygen’s technology which it describes as a low-cost process with a better carbon footprint than conventional methods.

Activated carbon is a toxin filtering material that is used extensively in water purification, soil remediation, precious metal recovery and the production of cosmetics. It can be used for the removal of PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) which accumulates in the environment and does not degrade.

However, traditional methods of producing activated carbon from agricultural waste are energy-intensive and the costs are generally high.

Bygen’s unique process enables higher adsorption of PFAS through its activated carbon, while helping to create alternative uses for wastes such as nut shells which offer little value for agriculture producers. The process uses nut shells, straw and wine waste as a source of carbon and heat, replacing traditional coal-based methods.

“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,” says Breakthrough Victoria CEO Grant Dooley.

Bygen co-founder and CEO Dr Lewis Dunnigan has welcomed new investors Breakthrough Victoria, Alberts Impact and Investible to the company’s shareholder register.

“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,” says Dunningham.

The $2.6 million Series A raise will be used by Bygen to support the testing and establishment of the company’s new large-scale production plant in Victoria, adding to its existing facility at Swan Reach in South Australia. The Victorian plant, Bygen's largest to date, will be used to convert locally produced almond shells and hulls into sustainable activated carbon. 

Bygen, which has plans to build other commercial plants in Australia and overseas, expects to create up to 65 new jobs in Victoria over the next five years.

"Investing in low-emissions technologies is key to both growing our economy and creating a sustainable future,” says Tim Pallas, the Victorian Minister for Economic growth. “This $1 million investment is a vote of confidence in the innovative work happening at Bygen.”

Bygen was founded in 2018 by Ben Morton and Lewis Dunnigan from research they conducted at the University of Adelaide.

New investor Alberts Impact Ventures says the company’s technology could provide a solution to restoring the world’s polluted soil, water and air.

“At Alberts, we were attracted by the resilient and dogged nature of Lewis and his team and the dual positive impact of the Bygen product,” says Impact Ventures head of strategy Glenn Bartlett.

“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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