The Norwegian technology company Plaato, was founded to provide fermentation solutions to the home brewing market and is now becoming a leader in large-scale fermentation monitoring, looking to revolutionize food technology beyond the alcoholic beverage sector.
Fermentation breaks down glucose in the absence of oxygen to produce alcoholic beverages and other foods, where yeasts, bacteria, or other microorganisms take over the chemical breakdown during fermentation. It is a very powerful and effective method, but it is also resource intensive and can require a lot of trial and error to arrive at the ideal fermentation batch.
The company was established in 2015 in Oslo by founders Pål Ingebrigtsen and Michael Kononsky, after realizing the existence of a hiccup in the craft beer sector: the impossibility to monitor a process happening behind steel walls.
The team developed sensors products initially designed for the home brewing market to help home brewers in achieving perfect batches of their DIY beers: “We figured out how to digitize this biochemical process and make it interesting by presenting actionable data without taking the craft away from the brewers,” said Kononsky, co-founder and chief of design and manufacturing.
The Plaato’s proofed tech allows real-time fermentation insights now available to breweries, cideries, and distilleries around the world: “Our technology is revolutionizing the fermentation industry by providing valuable data insights that were previously inaccessible.” said Magnus Valmot, CEO at Plaato.
The Tech and its benefits
Early commercial deployments of the company’s sensor technology began in 2022, and since then more and more breweries are looking at this opportunity to monitor their systems and increase profitability.
The Plaato’s low-cost plug-and-play fermentation sensor, in contrast to conventional methods, links to the SaaS platform that offers remote monitoring and data analysis.
The technology allows to remove manual measurements which can save time to brewers, salvage batches that would have otherwise been wasted and cut down on waste produced during the manual sampling procedure.
According to data collected by the company, the technology will allow the brewery to optimize production by 10% or more, while also being able to intervene immediately in the event of an anomaly in production.
Moreover, purchasing the brand’s sensors has low impact from shipping and installation due to the product’s size and weight, and allows the brewing sector to retrofit existing equipment. The brewing industry alone is constituted by over 25,000 breweries around the world which have an estimated average of 10 fermenter vessels each, so a quarter of a million large stainless steel tanks: “We do not want the industry to go and replace all these tanks, so we thought sensible to upgrade the traditional equipment.” pointed Kononsky.
More Funding, more markets
Plaato recently completed a highly successful investment round, raising $1,78 million, when the initial set target was of $1,33 million. The startup attracted a strong investor base especially in their home countries such as RunwayFBU, Gunnar Evensen and Birger Magnus.
“Plaato’s offering is a perfect match for our investment thesis: to invest in data-driven companies that make industries more efficient, sustainable and resilient.” said Peder Hjermann, investment manager at RunwayFBU in a press release.
The company intends to enhance its commercial growth and make product development investments using the money received. Plaato team members are currently based in Norway, Denmark, but its biggest market is currently the U.S. (47% ), where it plans to expands first.
Plaato is currently serving over 250 small or medium sized breweries, cideries and distilleries across 32 countries, including Australia, the U.K. and Canada: “We are also getting interest from some of the largest companies in the world who are struggling with the same problem and are lacking sensor capability to monitor their fermentation. So it really goes across this industry.” told Valmot.
As proof of their ability to bring much needed innovation and disrupt the market, on June 1st the Oslo-based company won the Food Tech Challengers award in Warsaw where over 400 companiescompeted at the Food Tech Congress.
But fermentation is not just limited to beer and cider: biomass and precision fermentation for alternative protein production are also growing in popularity, driving innovation across the alternative protein industry.
In 2022, the alternative protein fermentation sector continued to expand with key developments across commercial, product, investment, and technology, whereas at least 100 additional companies have set up their fermentation business line, including major food companies such as Nestlé, Unilever, and Bel Group, according to the non-for-profit The Good Food Institute.
These new products also require monitoring to ensure consistency, profitability and productivity in order to hit supermarket shelves. Plaato’s next step is to capture this market, as the company is actively exploring the potential for sustainable protein production monitoring through a collaborative research with the Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU).
The startup and academic partner are now running trials on a range of different fermentation processes to understand which once can Plaato’s technology help optimise, monitor and manage: “It’s still early stage for this industry, but it is so interesting and important to be part of enabling this sector,” Valmot concluded.