The Cano-ela story begins when Juliana Romero Guzmán, director of Cano-ela, was younger. She wanted to improve the food system, making it more sustainable and environmentally friendly. During her bachelor’s, Juliana was already thinking about plant-based foods because these foods are more affordable and efficient. Combined with these motivations, Juliana also wanted to make food healthier, especially processed foods as processed foods are essential to the food system However, a lot of processed foods aren’t good for us. So, her drive to make Cano-ela a reality came from her desire to make the change she would like to see in the world.
Juliana’s research at Wageningen Research University
The desire started to come to fruition while Juliana was doing her PhD in Food Technology and Processing at Wageningen Research University (WUR). It was here that she wrote her thesis on ¨Designing a sustainable oleosome aqueous extraction – A new way to make emulsion-based foods.¨ Juliana wanted to find a way to extract oil-storing structures in oil-bearing seeds, oleosomes, in a more sustainable way. After successful research, she designed a sustainable oleosome aqueous extraction, which gave a new way to make emulsion-based food, as well as opportunities for fractionation. She even discovered how to extract plant-based mayonnaise from canola seed (instead of making it from refined ingredients).
The blossoming of Cano-ela as an idea
During her PhD, Juliana realized there was an opportunity to continue what she started at WUR: developing new ways to create healthier products that were more sustainable than those currently on offer. She noticed that there was more utility to be exploited from the canola seed, especially for food companies wanting to produce plant-based products more suitably and with cleaner labels. After all, despite being the third most grown seed in the world, after palm and soybean, only oil is so far used from the canola seed. But because Juliana has found a way of naturally extracting the oil, protein, carbohydrates, as well as micronutrients, these ingredients can be used as building blocks to create food. This way, Cano-ela produces three fractions that can be used as ingredients to make food less refined. Namely, Cano-cream, Cano-soluble, and Cano-fiber.
It was in 2019, during Juliana’s last year of her PhD, that she began the incubation of Cano-ela as a company. This was where switching from R&D to business began and the roots for our company were planted. In 2020, Juliana met co-founder Alberto Niccolai at the EIT Food Program. She presented the project and Alberto found it super exciting. The collaboration began after the event and the two founders started having weekly meetings. As Alberto was based in Italy and Juliana in the Netherlands, the two had to figure out how this new partnership could work. With the COVID-19 pandemic, it became the new normal to work from a distance. Alberto found a lab in Italy and Juliana found an office in the Netherlands.
Development of Cano-ela
Since then, Cano-ela has attracted support and investment from StartLife Accelerate, StartHub, EIT Food, and others. It was through StartLife Accelerate that Juliana and Alberto met Benjamin Maclean. Benjamin, with many years of commercial experience, mentored Juliana and Alberto in starting up Cano-ela.
After a successful mentorship, Benjamin was delighted to be asked by the co-founders to join the Cano-ela team as the Chief Commercial Director in 2021. Since then, the team has grown, adding both scientific and marketing expertise. We now have eight members on the team. So, we’re still a small team but we are dedicated to the big idea of unlocking the potential of oil-rich seeds and making food circularity a reality. We can only grow from here.
Connect with us
That’s our story! We hope you enjoyed reading it and if you have any questions or would like to know more, get in touch and we’ll be happy to help. Or, if you want to see what the team is up to day-to-day, follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn.