There’s not doubt that mushrooms as a food group are delicious. Chewy, packed with umami and available in an assortment of textures, it’s hardly a surprise that chefs and food entrepreneurs everywhere are looking to create beef, pork and chicken alternatives from fungi. But for a bevvy of new startups, it’s the part growing underground that’s most exciting. Dubbed mycelium, these fungal root-like structure can be mined for their meat-like potential.
Bosque Foods, a Berlin-based biotech company is cultivating mycelium using fermentation to provide lower carbon footprint options that can replace industrially produced meat in order to help fight the consequences of climate change. First up on the menu are whole-cut “chicken” and “pork” filets that replicate the taste, nutrition and texture of their animal counterpart.
Founder and CEO Isabella Iglesias-Musachio’s aim is to feed flexitarians who want to cut down on beef and other animal foods and who are looking for clean-label, minimally processed and tasty alternatives. “A growing segment of consumers want to reduce their meat consumption for health or environmental reasons but feel unsatisfied by the alternatives available to them— ultra-processed patties, nuggets high in sodium, and products packed with synthetic chemicals and additives,” she said.
Solid-state biomass fermentation
According to non-profit think thank the Good Food Institute, biomass fermentation “uses the high-protein content and rapid growth of microorganisms to efficiently make large amounts of protein-rich food”, unlike cultivated meat, whereby animal cells are grown in bioreactors, or precision fermentation, where microbes are programmed to product protein. In other words, the mycelium is both the maker and the final product.
While many alternative protein companies make use of liquid fermentation, Bosque works with solid-state biomass fermentation to transform mycelium into meat alternatives. The company, whose name means forest in Spanish, says its mission is to become a global biomass fermentation leader thanks to its proprietary technology.
Iglesias-Musachio told Green Queen that solid state fermentation (SSF) is offers many advantages compared to liquid state fermentation such as: costs (it’s cheaper to scale and has better unit economics), the ability to use agrifood side streams (allowing for a more circular production process), the option to use mushroom strains (better for consumer acceptance) and a solid end result structure (less down stream processing and cleaner end products).
Successful seed round
The company has just announced a $3 million seed funding round led by Berlin-based FoodLabs, with participation from Blue Impact, Blue Horizon, Hong Kong’s Happiness Capital, SOSV (of IndieBio fame), and angel investor Arman Anatürk, founder of FoodHack.
Christian Guber, Senior Associate at FoodLabs, says investors are on the lookout for whole-cut innovators: “We’re seeing a major shift in the alternative protein space as fermentation technology is set to replace many plant-based products, combining flavor and texture with a short time to market. However, there are few solutions available addressing whole-cut meats. Bosque Foods has developed a fascinating approach that addresses this problem using the power of mycelium.”
Bosque plans to use the capital to expedite the development and commercialization of their products and establish with progressive chefs and restaurants. The startup will also test their manufacturing technology at pilot scale and apply for regulatory approval to bring their products to market within Europe and the US.
Mycelium startups on the rise
Bosque is far from the only alt protein player focused on mycelium. Also in Europe, Libre Foods is making mycelium bacon, while Keen 4 Greens has created mycelium sausage links. Over in the U.S., both Meati Foods and The Better Meat Co are pioneering mycelium steak. All of Bosque’s peers use liquid-state biomass fermentation.
All images courtesy of Bosque Foods.