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Start-up PeelPioneers is going to build a new factory in Den Bosch for the processing and biorefinery of orange peels left over after making fresh juice.
Pierre Gielen

In the new factory, PeelPioneers will soon be processing one hundred twenty thousand kilos of peelings per day, tripling the processing capacity of the current location in Son. The number of employees will also triple to approximately thirty.

“We are not only going to process more peels in Den Bosch, but also work on a more complete value-added process, ie more ingredients”, says Sytze van Stempvoort, one of the founders of PeelPioneers. In the current factory in Son en Breugel, 40,000 kilos of peels are processed daily into aromas, oils and animal feed. “We are adding a portfolio of functional dietary fibers to that. Think of ingredients for meat substitutes, thickeners for soups and sauces, the bakery industry, dairy. But also flavonoids: aromas and raw materials for the confectionery industry. Our R&D Team is already looking further and we see sufficient potential for even further biorefinery. We are far from done with that.

The Netherlands is the number 1 importer of citrus fruit in the world. The per capita consumption of freshly squeezed juice is also high here, although it is also on the rise in other European countries. “That means that a lot of shells remain, increasingly in other countries as well. For this growing biomass flow, we have set up a supply chain together with Renewi; we collect peels throughout the Netherlands, so that they no longer end up in the incinerator. ”


One of the investors in the new factory is the new European Circular Bioeconomy Fund (ECBF), next to the DOEN Foundation, and the Brabant Development Agency (BOM). “It is a good time to invest,” says Peter Nieuwenhuizen, venture capital partner in the ECBF. “GNP has fallen due to the Corona crisis and it is of enormous importance that we invest in the circular economy and in the talent of Europe: start-ups and scale-ups. In addition, this specific segment is interesting now that the vegetarian meat side is on the rise. ” As a former CTO and Sustainability Director of AkzoNobel Specialty Chemicals (Nouryon), Nieuwenhuizen has known PeelPioneers for years; the company once took part in AkzoNobel’s Imagine Chemistry Challenge.

In total, this involves an investment of € 10 million, divided between the aforementioned investors, a subsidy from the Dutch government and a loan from Rabobank. “The investment in PeelPioneers is relatively small for ECBF,” says Nieuwenhuizen. “But this does give us a foothold in the company. Once the factory is up and running and we have to build two more later, for example in Paris and Madrid, we will follow up with a larger investment.

‘Prove your value proposition’

Van Stempvoort: “I would like to say to entrepreneurs: you should certainly dare to dream big, but in what you attract it is more useful for yourself to prove your value proposition with relatively small money and to ensure that you have a ‘minimal viable product’ on the market. move. Then you also notice what it is like to have feedstock every day, what it is like to do sales, what it is like to work with a team. It is quite different to have to work with a sweat on your back day in, day out, than to present Powerpoints full of flashy business plans.”

Image above: Richard A. McMillin/Shutterstock

The new factory of PeelPioneers in Den Bosch will be approximately 3,000 m2 in size, including storage shed. That is 10 times the size of the space the company now has in Son. Every day six to seven trucks deliver a total of about 120,000 kilos of orange peels from all over the country. About 80% of the incoming biomass is converted into high-quality ingredients, such as barrels of essential oil, big bags with fiber and chopped peelings for the confectionery industry. Rejected skins are processed into animal feed, so there are no waste flows. In addition to production, R&D will also become an important activity at the new site. PeelPioneers is therefore looking for new employees, but is also open to new partners.