Algae cultivator Qualitas Health (DBA iwi) closes first round of new investment

By Danielle Masterson contact

- Last updated on GMT

Photo courtesy of Qualitas
Photo courtesy of Qualitas

Related tags: microalgae, omega-3, plant-based protein

Texas-based Qualitas Health, best known for its algae brand iwi, has secured $10 million in venture funds at a $73 million post-money valuation in a push to expand its plant-based protein and omega-3 business.

iwi, a direct-to-consumer producer of high absorption polar lipid EPA omega-3, said the investment round is being led by food-Tech investor PeakBridge VC, Malta, together with Arancia Group, a privately-owned Mexico-based food ingredient/food service conglomerate, Minrav (the company’s largest investor) and other private investors. Additional convertible notes held by Minrav Holdings, Sasa, Trucent and other single investors are converted to equity.

“This new investment round is a significant milestone for our company,” ​said Miguel Calatayud, CEO of Qualitas Health. “We are fortunate to have such prominent partners join us in our journey and we are grateful to our existing and new shareholders for their commitment and ongoing support. iwi experienced significant growth in 2020 with online sales, and strong sales growth is forecast to continue in 2021.”

Calatayud told NutraIngredients-USA that the fresh funding will allow the food and nutrition company to execute strategic plans that include expanding the presence of the iwi brand in the US, continue their clinical studies as well as R&D disruptive projects, and keep their regulatory plans moving along.

Sustainability 

iwi differentiates itself by relying on saltwater and using the sun as it’s main source of energy. By doing so, this places zero strain on the natural ecosystem, allowing iwi to cleanly cultivate large amounts of the microalgae Nannochrolopsis​. 

A marine species, Nannochloropsis​ thrives in brackish or salt water. iwi is able to recycle an impressive 95-97% percent of the water used to grow its Nannochloropsis​.

Calatayud said at the New Mexico farm, iwi harvests about 30,000 gallons of pond culture to make 300 gallons of concentrated algae, and then returns about 29,000 gallons of water to the pond for reuse.

This particular algae is one of the few existing plants that contains all of the essential amino acids as well as vitamins, minerals, chlorophyll, and essential fatty acids, especially omega-3. 

Room to grow

The new round of funding is also key in iwi’s international expansion plan, which includes Australia, Europe and India. However, algae production will stay in the US — at least for now. 

“At this stage we have plenty of capacity to supply from our existing farms as we are using about one-third of one of the two farm’s capacity. We are studying strategic projects for the future in the Middle East and Europe,”​ said Calatayud. 

Indeed, the plant-based omega-3 producers grow their microalgae in cultivation pond systems the size of football fields in the deserts of New Mexico and Texas.

With over 15 SKUs of softgels and functional gummies, the new funding will allow the iwi line to further expand, with plans to develop protein and functional food for 2022. “Our micro algae produces a very unique oil (which is already in the market in the iwi products) and a highly complex protein with very good organoleptic profile which contains all the essential amino acids and more total essential amino acids than egg and whey. We’ll focus on personalized nutrition, adult nutrition and sports nutrition,”​ explained Calatayud. 

iwi is building on its direct-to-consumer platform and also maintains a presence in more than 5,000 US retailer outlets.

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