micelio

Mycelium: The super ingredient of the food industry

One of the great wonders in nature is also one of the most unnoticed. Under the ground, regardless where you are there’s a large network of filaments that branch out and unify all the organic matter that surrounds them called mycelium. Its total length in the upper 10 cm of the ground has been estimated to be more than 450 quadrillion km.

What is the importance of mycelium?

Generally, it is in charge of decomposition and symbiosis. It absorbs organic matter avoiding its accumulation on the ground. Moreover, plants carry 70% of the carbon from the CO2 that photosynthesize underground where they exchange it for nutrients with the mycelium through their root system and this carbon is stored in the cell membranes of the fungi. This way it feeds the microbial community and all parts of the food chain like mites or nematodes that recycle nutrients through this food process. 

Fungi are key to stabilizing carbon in the soil hence it remains stored. 

Mycelium, apart from all its natural qualities, can grow rapidly in the ground and in a laboratory through a process that uses little electricity, is safe and, despite being light, is very resistant. Additionally, it is a temperature insulator, has absorbent properties, and is bio-compostable. 

Once mycelium is produced, is usually treated and dehydrated to improve its density, strength, elasticity, and texture.

Mycelium in the food industry 

innomy burgers

Focusing on the food tech industry, protein-based fungi, in other words, mycelium, seems to be reaching a popular plant and cell-based solution. The world’s first large-scale mycoprotein facility was announced in May 2020 and the food tech mushroom protein market is expected to grow 12% between 2019 and 2027 

Mycelium is nowadays normally used in protein-based alternatives, (plant-based) due to its high nutritional protein content and its fibrous appearance that characterizes meat. 

Using technologies such as fermentation, more specifically biomass fermentation due to the capacity of its microorganisms to multiply rapidly and efficiently, the mycelium grows to one of the highest levels, doubling its weight in just a few hours. 

Biomass fermentation takes advantage of rapid growth and high content in the protein of many microorganisms to efficiently produce a high amount of proteins. Biomass can be the principal ingredient of a food product or service as one of the main ingredients of a mixture. 

For example, the Spanish company Innomy uses mycelium combined with precision fermentation technology to create complex structures that reproduce the tender and fibrous consistency of meat. The company modifies shape, color, and flavor in the stringy structures of mycelial arrays to elaborate meat-flavored products. 

Furthermore, we have Libre Foods, a startup based in Barcelona whose mission is to liberate the food system through nutritious and sustainable products grown from mycelium. The first product o the company is a mycelium-based beef fillet followed by a line of red meats, poultry, and seafood. Libre Foods recently presented a mushroom-based bacon product created with fermentation (precision) technology. 

If you want to know about more disruptive projects on this topic, visit our article about 6 startups using mushrooms in food tech. 

Innomy raises €1.3 million in funding, thanks to its alternative proteins based on mushrooms

The Spanish startup Innomy has raised 1,3 million euros in its Pre Series A funding round. The round was led by international investors as Corporación Cervino, Rockstart, Zubi Capital, Eatable Adventures and the National Center for Technology and Food Safety (CNTA), who have taken equity stakes in the company to scale the startup’s disruptive technology and promote a much more sustainable and healthier protein consumption alternative in other markets.

The leading Argentinian team, composed by CEO and co-founder Juan Pablo de Giacomi, biotechnologist COO and co-founder Pablo Sánchez Rey, and mycologist CSO and Technology Partner Francisco Kuhar, has dedicated years of research to the properties of mushroom-based proteins and their benefits for the health of people and the planet.

Innomy is the third foodtech Spanish startup announcing its first funding round after successfully completing the acceleration program Spain Foodtech developed by Eatable Adventures, in collaboration with ICEX Spain Export and Investment and the National Center for Technology and Food Safety (CNTA) and the Rockstart AgriFood program. Disruptive startups Cocuus and Moa Foodtech were also selected in Spain Foodtech program.

Juan Pablo de Giacomi, CEO and founder of Innomy states “We were born as a platform to channel many years of research in the field of the properties of edible mushrooms. Our mission is to respond to consumers that demand good food products for their health but also for the planet’s wellbeing. We want to reach new markets and bring our product to thousands of people”.

Mycelium, a filamentous, protein-rich ingredient extracted from the root structure of mushrooms is considered to be one of the most promising sources of protein for the future. Its quality in terms of nutrition was recognized by scientists a long time ago, but its current production for human consumption is not yet widespread. Furthermore, the fact that fungi do not produce cholesterol or significant amounts of saturated fats has redirected the attention of the food industry towards them.

On the other hand, José Luis Cabañero, CEO and founder of Eatable Adventures notes “We are very proud to be part of this new milestone that consolidates the leadership of the Spanish foodtech ecosystem. In the last few months, we have managed to raise Funding rounds of an average of 1.8M for three of the startups that have been selected in our acceleration program. We continue to bet on disruptive technologies that impact the way food is produced and consumed, ensuring food safety for all”.

Mark Durno, Managing Partner AgriFood of Rockstart said: “At Rockstart, purpose driven and determined founders are central to our investment selection. In the case of Innomy, the founding team is composed of specialists in mycelium and have all shown amazing commercial insight and humble curiosity during the mentor sessions throughout our accelerator program. We are delighted to make our second investment in the company.”

“With the entry into the capital we formalize the collaboration we have maintained in recent years to develop Innomy’s proprietary technology. And now, with this financial injection, it will be possible to bring this technology to the market and continue contributing to transforming the future of food to make it healthier, more sustainable, safer and available to everyone,” said Héctor Barbarin, CEO of CNTA.

In the context of the current global environmental and demographic challenges, meat alternatives, such as mycelium, are an effective solution to reduce meat production effects, which are responsible for almost 60% of all greenhouse gasses generated by food production, according to FAO data.

Innomy has been awarded in the fourth edition of the ‘Ingenia Startup Awards’, promoted by the Spanish Federation of Food and Beverage Industries (FIAB), the Technology Platform Food for LifeSpain (PTF4LS) and the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAPA). In addition, it has been a finalist in the Foodtech Heroes 2022 in the F&A category and has been chosen as one of the top 15 foodtech startups according to El Referente.

Precision Fermentation & Cell Agriculture Disrupting the Dairy Industry

In the dairy industry, cell cultures and fermentation techniques are beginning to demonstrate industrial and commercial viability, as shown by the growth of investment in this sector and the emergence of new startups using these technologies as their foundation. Proof of this is that investment in the dairy segment has tripled in 2021, compared with 2020, according to Dealroom data analyzed by Eatable Adventures. Also, according to data from The Good Food Institute, fermentation companies have raised $1.7 billion, which accounts for one-third of all investments in alternative proteins. 

Research, innovation, and technology make it possible to develop new production and food transformation models that allow us to improve existing products and create new ones. By remaking the same proteins and fats from dairy, but without animals, formulators are trying to create dairy alternatives that closely resemble traditional dairy products, thanks to disruptive technologies like cell agriculture and fermentation. 

The following extract from the FoodTech Market Intelligence Report – Alternative Dairy by Eatable Adventures highlighting the technologies and startups debuting in the Dairy Industry demonstrated that precision fermentation continues to gain momentum among new startups in the sector.

Alternative Dairy Startups Momentum

Source: Dealroom data analyzed by Eatable Adventures

From Eatable Adventures data, we find that in 2021 the alternative dairy fermentation startup, Perfect Day, debuted the fermentation investment profile after receiving $350M in funding, followed by Remilk at the beginning of 2022, receiving $120M.

Additionally, according to more Eatable Adventures data, we can state that precision fermentation technology is highly mature at the moment in terms of investments, meaning that the fascinating technology that cell culture is, is still ripe for innovation and is estimated to grow exponentially in the upcoming years.

Cell agriculture and fermentation in the dairy industry

Source: Dealroom data analyzed by Eatable Adventures

 

Precision fermentation is not only very mature in terms of investment, but also in terms of technology development. Foods containing ingredients made with this technology have been around for decades, and we are eating them on a daily basis. A recent article by Sonalie Figueiras from Green Queen features different precision fermentation foods and products we have been consuming, including enzymes used in food production (e.j pectinases which help make fruit juices clear), vitamins we take in supplement form or powder, natural flavors added to certain foods (e.j vanilla flavoring), and even cheese (rennet, a key ingredient in cheese production, is produced via precision fermentation). 

On the other hand, cell-cultured technology is a promising technology for animal-based proteins but still needs further development and acceptance.
By using this method, meat is produced with the same types of cells arranged in the same structure as animal tissues, delivering identical sensory and nutritional properties as conventional meat. Nevertheless, there are still many obstacles for cellular agriculture to overcome such as regulatory aspects, consumer perception, and socio-political challenges, but that doesn’t negate the fact that is a rising trend that entrepreneurs and investors, and companies should follow.

Accelerating the market through Open Innovation Programs

In this food revolution, open innovation programs and synergies between big companies and startups are of major importance to accelerate growth and assist new startups to reach their objectives.  For instance, Mylkcubator, the global incubation program led by Pascual Innoventures, and Eatable Adventures, recently launched its second edition and are currently seeking projects with innovative solutions in the cellular agriculture spectrum for the dairy industry. 

If you have THE idea or project regarding disruptive innovation in the dairy industry using cell agriculture technology, visit the official website mylkcubator.com and get to know all the details about the program.

For further details regarding Mylkcubator, click here.

Meet the EAA Alumni: COCUUS

Cocuus Javier I. Zaratiegui

Javier I. Zaratiegui – CTO & Partner of Cocuus.

We had the opportunity to interview Javier I. Zaratiegui, the CTO & Partner of Cocuus, a Spanish food tech company that develops industrial solutions for the production of plant- or cell-based animal protein analogs (mimetic food) using 2D/3D laser printing, bioprinting, and robotics. 

The company has just won the international Quality Innovation Award (QIA) in the category of Innovation in Microenterprises and Startups. 

Find out all about his experience in the Eatable Adventures Acceleration Program, and some of his secrets as you read on. 

1. What is the future potential of 3D food printing according to your vision?

 

Regardless of which technology is used to create a “new” food, the important point to us is its background and potential. 

There are two sides to this equation, on one hand, current methods have a carbon footprint that needs to be reduced, and on the other hand, the technology will help us create better foods, by balancing nutrients or encapsulating them, which results in products that are more sustainable for the environment and healthier for our bodies. 

Cocuus uses 3D printing, extrusion, thermoformed molds, laser cutting, food ink printing, and a lot of ingenuity and creativity. In recent years, new technologies for food manufacturing are making their way into the food industry. Unsurprisingly, this coincides with the time when extensive research into alternative proteins is bearing fruit. 

Today, new manufacturing techniques can and ought to be used to develop these new proteins into new products, taking into consideration fermentation, mycelium, insect proteins, algae, and even cells grown in laboratories and multiplied in bioreactors. This is already a reality and provides consumers with more choices.

2. How have Eatable Adventures helped Cocuus achieve its goals?

 

Eatable Adventures has been a turning point in our roadmap. Among other things, it inspired us to change the mentality necessary for our startup to transform into a business. At the very beginning, we saw that our knowledge was very focused on creating machines, and Eatable Adventures showed the potential we could have if those machines were directed toward solving the problems of large food industries. It was a before and after. 

Before we met Eatable Adventures, we were also making technologies but focused on chefs, restaurants, catering companies, and events, among others. We provided our clients with tools to create new dishes, decorate or combine them with technology to impress their guests. That’s how we began, with laser cutting machines, printing, and food ink.

3. What is the most valuable piece of advice José Luis has given you during our Acceleration Program?

 

We have had some memorable moments with José Luis. Perhaps the best one was when he “challenged” us to manufacture a machine that could be able to make large parts (whole cuts) since that was what the industry demanded. 

Saying to someone from the Navarra region like Patxi Larumbe “I bet you can’t make a printed cutlet…” meant to set the flame to this project. As a result, a new chapter began in this whole acceleration process: large corporations, large international investment funds, and also many media outlets started to contact us. José Luis has been very helpful to us in facing this whole process, which was completely new for us, and he has provided us with knowledge about his perspective and experience before making some important decisions.

4. What is your vision for Cocuus in the short, medium, and long term?

“Focus Cocuus. In the short term, we are focusing on a few projects before tackling other bigger challenges. We know there is a lot of competition in our field and we want to finish our machines in the short term and test their robustness and reliability before offering them to new customers. The same goes for us in international markets. We hope to learn and resolve any necessary adjustments to these first pilot lines on the mainland and later jump into Asia as well as America and Europe, in all three areas at the same time. For this, we must strengthen some departments of the company and continue with the contacts we have been making to understand what each of these markets demands. We don’t go in with a solution or a product and look for someone to buy it from us; what we do is find out what our customer needs and then offer him an adapted solution. It’s the same for us to make a shrimp machine or a steak machine. What we are very clear about is that we only take on large production projects. We have already left behind the projects for a few restaurants, now we are targeting large manufacturers or distributors in the food industry. 

In the medium term, when all the projects are already on the market, we will then be able to assess which ones are more interesting for the company. With each step, we learn and evaluate what the next step will be. At the beginning, we made salmon from bio-gels and food dyes, although we were told that there would be more marketable if we made tuna or shrimp. Because of this lack of market knowledge, what we decided to do and continue doing is to let ourselves be advised by experts like Eatable Adventures, and shift when we decide to do so. 

In the long term, I don’t know what we will do at Cocuus. What is clear to me is that the future of cell reproduction will be marked by factories that produce mass quantities of cells in short periods of time by just passing through bioreactors. There is where Cocuus wants to be, making these technologies to convert those cells into final products. At least today, we don’t contemplate making final products for the consumer; our focus is exclusively on developing machines and technologies for others. We are happy with what we do, but the door is always open to a “Refocus Cocuus”.

 

Mylkcubator’s First Demo Day Features Four Startups Developing The Dairy Of The Future Through Cellular Agriculture Technologies

demoday mylkcubator

The first edition of Mylkcubator, the incubation program launched by Pascual Innoventures in collaboration with Eatable Adventures, has held its eagerly anticipated Demo Day event showcasing the advances of the first cohort of startups, at its headquarters in Manoteras, Madrid.

The program not only showcased pioneering dairy projects around the world but also laid the foundation for a new path of development and innovation for the industry to face some of its greatest challenges.

As a culmination of the six-month incubation program, the participating startups presented their final pitches, paving the way for future funding rounds that will allow them to pursue their innovative development and research:  

  • De Novo Dairy, a startup based in South Africa with a mission to create the future of nutrition, the company uses precise fermentation technology to produce animal-free dairy proteins that provide the same sensory experience and nutrition as traditional dairy counterparts. De Novo Dairy is currently developing high-value proteins for the dairy industry.
  • Spanish startup Real Deal Milk develops casein and whey proteins through precision fermentation technologies with the same functional properties as traditional dairy components, with the aim to produce dairy substitutes equivalent to traditional dairy. 
  • Using bioengineering & microbial fermentation, Zero Cow Factory is reinventing dairy ingredients with India’s first milk and milk products (certainly the world’s first A2 milk protein) using bioengineering the microbes & microbial fermentation. The Zero Cow team is developing a proprietary technique to recreate milk proteins to develop real dairy products that are ethical, safe, delicious, and identical to cow milk.
  • Pure™ Mammary Factors based in the USA are accelerating the state of the art in cell-cultured dairy by crashing the cost of production by the development of growth factors used in culture media. The startup aims to make cell-cultured human milk affordable and accessible by selling food-grade off-the-shelf growth factors around the world.

Pascual Innoventures is committed to driving innovation to create a more sustainable future for all, anticipating the current trends that will shape the foods of the future. Due to the success of the first edition of Mylkcubator, Pascual Innoventures has already announced the call for the second edition of the program.

According to Sejal Ravji, director of Pascual Innoventures, “the success of the Mylkcubator Demo Day not only reaffirms the great response this program has had in the sector worldwide but also confirms what we at Innoventures already knew, in order to develop the dairy products of the future we have to continue to invest in transformational innovation and ambitious technological projects, as is the case with the four startups that have been working with us since the start of Mylkcubator six months ago”.

Furthermore, according to Jose Luis Cabañero, founder and CEO of Eatable Adventures, “In the coming years, we expect to see increased innovation in the alternative protein space, with breakthroughs in cellular agriculture and precision fermentation technologies. Mylkcubator is a pioneering global program that is and will continue to be at the forefront of developing the dairy of the future.”