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Animal agriculture contributes to climate change to such an extent that there’s no question alternatives need to be embraced. As the second-largest human-caused contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, the industrial animal protein industry is demanding disruption. Thankfully, motivated founders are rising to the challenge, and new alternative protein startups are launching every day across the globe to create solutions that are as nutritious as they are sustainable.
Early-stage VC Big Idea Ventures (BIV) has unveiled the 15 future food companies that have joined their various accelerator programs in Singapore, Paris and New York Representing a diverse range of technologies and niches from Thailand to the Czech Republic, all are looking to bulwark our global food chain against the looming climate crisis.
Plant-based boom continues
Australia’s Leaf Protein Co is using proprietary technology to unlock the world’s most abundant protein source, rubisco, to be added to plant-based foods, including dairy and meats.
Plant-based dairy is getting a fresh injection of energy via Spain’s Väcka. Creating cheese using traditional fermentation and ageing, it specialises in using unexpected ingredients, including pumpkin. Along similar lines, New Zealand’s Kabocha has developed squash-based milk and is looking to expand into meat patties, using imperfect crops and its own milk production waste.
Meanwhile, Mushroom Meat Co make no bones about using ‘culinary-medicinal’ fungi and upcycled plant proteins to create whole-food meat analogues in the U.S.
Asian startups rise to the alt protein challenge
Placing its faith in fungi is U.S.-based Optimized Foods, which aims to leverage the power of mycelium to grow healthier versions of existing foods. Thailand’s More Foods is also looking to unlock the potential of mushrooms, by using them in its plant-based proteins packed with bioactive ingredients.
Dr Dalal AlGhawas, BIV’s program director in Singapore, says Southeast Asian consumers want solutions adapted to their food cultures and taste buds that are also environmentally-friendly. “For these markets product localisation is key and we are excited to see the emphasis for clean labels and food waste valorisation too.”
Umami United is Japan’s answer to regional foods made vegan and with locally sourced ingredients, such as konjac. The startup already makes an Umami Egg and creates clean label eats that are Buddhist-friendly.
Alt protein MVPs
There are now hundreds of alt protein companies and over 100+ cultivated meat and seafood startups that have arisen over the past two years. These players need supportive technologies to scale, think affordable scaffolding, growth media and bioreactor machinery.
U.K.-based Alt Atlas has developed a learning bio-platform for sourcing functional ingredients for alternative meat and dairy applications. A non-GMO bovine stem cell line is its first priority, to help the cultivated industry to scale up.
Novel food companies need ingredients and additives too. Singapore’s Pullulo manufactures microbial protein for food applications, with a focus on vegan developments and underserviced sectors such as healthcare catering. It seeks to upcycle waste into functional food additives.
Switzerland’s Cultivated Biosciences is fermenting an additive to make plant-based dairy creamier, without the use of GMO.
Over in Israel, Genesea uses macro-algae to create a clean label protein for use in food manufacturing. It boasts a 92 percent biomass recovery rate of raw materials when undertaking processing.
Lab grown developments
Using precision fermentation, France’s Nutropy is replicating milk proteins to develop vegan versions of favourite french cheeses, for health, animal welfare and environmental motivations.
The Czech Republic is officially entering the cultivated meat vertical via Mewery. Slated to be the first European cell-ag startup creating pork using a microalgae base, the company is on a mission to drive down costs with animal serum-free growth mediums.
CF Foods, which is based in the U.S., is making premium dog treats using cultivated meat and plant-based ingredients together. The startup wants to be one of the first companies offering CPG items in the U.S. and Asia.
“With 15 companies from 13 different countries this cohort is our most diverse to date. It is a testament to the growth of the alternative protein food industry globally. Every company in this cohort addresses a specific market gap, said Andrew D. Ive, BIV founder and managing general partner.
Lead photo by Sam Moghadam Khamseh at Unsplash.