UCL Department of Biochemical Engineering


Javier Larragoiti's Xilinat wins $310k Chivas Venture competition

30 May 2019

Xilinat buys agricultural wastes from poor farmers in Mexico and transforms them into xylitol, a natural sugar substitute that looks and tastes identically to sugar to help mitigate diabetes and obesity and won the 2019 global Chivas "The Venture" competition

Javier Larragoiti winning Chivas The Venture

Javier graduated with an MSc in Biochemical Engineering at UCL in 2016. on his return to Mexico after his postgraduate studies he co-founded a startup that buys agricultural wastes to poor farmers in Mexico and transforms them into xylitol, a natural sweetener that aims to taste identical to sugar and benefit human health.

The Guardian profiled Javier and his startup in an article here.

We're very pleased to announce that Javier's enterprise beat an array of global competitors to win the Chivas The Venture competition this month, which means an investment of $310,000 to put towards development. You can read more about the competition here.

Javier writes:

"Our production process is based on biotechnological methods. We collect the agricultural wastes, employ a pretreatment step to release xylose (an abundant carb in nature) inside of them and then we use a
fermentative process to transform that xylose into xylitol. For creating this process, my studies at UCL were crucial. My MSc. degree at UCL allowed me to understand the fundamentals for designing a production process for transforming agricultural residues into valuable chemicals. I remember learning for the first time the different types of pretreatments commonly used in biorefineries while having a lecture with Frank Baganz. Also, being able to design a bioreactor was fundamental for scaling up our process, which I gladly learned with Gary Lye. Xilinat has been internationally awarded due to its positive social and environmental impact as we:

  • Avoid pollution by using agricultural wastes as raw materials.
  • Give farmers and extra income by buying their residues.
  • Sell a natural product that benefits the health of consumers.

In 2017, the MIT recognized our technology as one of the top 35 innovations in Latin America and today we are representing Mexico on the final of the most important contest for social entrepreneurs, “The
Venture”. We are competing against 19 different teams to earn part of a 1M USD price. Moreover, we are also competing for 50k USD given to the People’s Choice Award."

"It's great to see Javier's startup being recognised and making an impact in this field, we encourage everyone to support him by voting for Xilinat in The Venture"
Gary Lye, head of UCL Biochemical Engineering, April 2019