Written by: Wienke Reynolds – Co-Founder and CTO at Lignopure
There is a very distinct beauty in polished stainless-steel pipes, vessels, fittings and valves – especially for engineers like us at Lignopure. To have a production plant is definitely a big and important hurdle that tech startups need to take in comparison to fully digital business ideas, but it is even more rewarding to see our vision materialize like that in beautiful stainless steel.
Everything starts with a seed
When Lignopure was officially founded in 2019, we were still validating different possible high-value applications and related business models, but pretty soon got revealed to us that Life Sciences was the way to go and that our goal would be to enter multiple market sectors, like the cosmetic and pharma industries. When we closed our seed financing round by the end of 2020, it was already clear, that we would invest a big part of it in opening our Lignopure production plant and become a pioneer in the production of cosmetic and nutraceutical ingredients based on non-soluble lignins in Europe.
Although scaling up a core technology during the seed investment phase is not very common in the tech startup world, for us it was the best chance to not only prove the scalability and functionality of Lignopure’s particle technology but to produce relevant amounts of lignin-based ingredients like LignoBase with reliable quality and the required hygiene measures for our future clients.
Special innovative solutions need special innovative processes
Lignopure’s ingredients require a special combination of unit operations and the use of our patented particle technology which makes it impossible to find a contractor that follows the processes and controls we required. Therefore, we had little other chance than jumping into the cold water and open our own production plant where we could implement the necessary structures, and operation units in our own equipment to then create what is now our Lignopure quality and production process.
Once, the decision was made we started to search for a hall to install it. This was not an easy task as we needed a certain height to fit industrial equipment, suitable flooring with drainage for a hygienic process. Finding an already hall was very important because, beyond the technical requirements we had, this plays a big role in the sustainability aspect of a company. The reason is that more than one-third of the greenhouse gas emissions of a building are already produced before its use during construction – so it is better to use an already existing building and prolong its lifetime than to construct a completely new building. For this purpose, we found a good match for us in the Sirius Business Park Buxtehude in Lower Saxony, south of Hamburg.
Installation of our Lignopure Production Plant
The construction of the Lignopure Production Plant started in the late summer of 2021, coordinated by our technical team. This hall was perfect for us due to its original industrial food use, floor drain, tiles, sufficient height and convenient overall size. Even though the hall had already the right bones, our team did an incredible job in its renovation and fulfillment of technical, safety and hygienic-related documentation.
Drywalls were erected to separate the hygienic wet and dry production areas, filling section and QC lab, storage units and locks. Everything needed to be planned exactly to maneuver in the major plant units before the dry walls were fully closed. Auxiliary equipment, piping and utility installations came in a second step coordinated mainly by our technician and plant operator, who never takes a “no” for an answer when it comes to technical solutions. Subsequently, the water supply took place in December 2021, to then run our first trials with actual lignin in January-February 2022. Finally, after the last site cleaning and closing of the hygienic area, we were ready to start test operations to produce our first samples of LignoBase.
Lignopure’s Production Plant for lignin-based solutions
Therefore, it’s needless to say that this has been quite an adventure, but thanks to the good work of Lignopure’s team, contractors and equipment manufacturers, we are today fully operational and ready to offer lignin-based alternatives to multiple industries to make the world a little greener (or browner?) with our natural multifunctional ingredients and applications.
From those first days of our seed investment, until today everybody at Lignopure has been working extra hard to bring our natural bio-based solutions to the worldwide market, that’s why being able to see the first sparks of success materialized in our first cosmetic line LignoBase has been really rewarding. There are more applications and products to come, so we are really looking forward to keep on optimizing our processes and together with our Lignopure Production Plant bring the best quality lignin-based solutions to as many Life Science Industries as possible.