Libre Foods, one of the first European alternative protein food techs to tap fermentation technology, is on a mission to become the leading global provider of mycelium-based whole-cut meats. Currently, the startup is focused on developing a fungi-powered beef steak alternative, but plans on creating an entire range of whole-cut proteins using fermentation, from poultry to seafood.
Based in Barcelona, Libre Foods is on a mission to develop animal-free proteins that look, taste, smell and cook like real slabs of meat. Unlike most alternative proteins on the market, which come in minced or processed meat formats like patties or sausages, Libre Foods wants to recreate whole-cuts. Their first target? Beef steak.
The startup, founded last year, is using fungal mycelium to grow these whole-cut analogues and is one of the first startups in Europe to tap fermentation technology – often described as the “third pillar” in the alternative protein landscape, next to plant-based and cell-based alternatives.
Most of the players that have gained traction in the sector are based in the U.S., among them California’s Perfect Day, who uses precision fermentation to create real dairy proteins without any cows and Chicago-based fungi protein maker Nature’s Fynd, who has won support from the likes of Bill Gates and Jack Ma.
Producing exceptional alternative protein products that people can enjoy is the single most effective way to remove the current strain food production has on our environment.Alan Iván Ramos, Founder & CEO, Libre Foods
To develop its whole-cut steak, Libre Foods relies on filamentous fungi that can be grown all-year round in an indoor environment through a fermentation process. This technique, says the startup, not only enables the creation of tasty fibrous meat analogues, but is also superior in terms of sustainability, requiring few resources, leaving behind minimal waste and emitting a fraction of the carbon footprint compared to real meat production.
“Animal consumption is eating our planet. Producing exceptional alternative protein products that people can enjoy is the single most effective way to remove the current strain food production has on our environment and to ensure food security for our growing global population,” explained Libre Foods founder and CEO Alan Iván Ramos.
The startup has already gained the backing of Sustainable Food Ventures (SFV), the first rolling fund on AngelList dedicated to alternative protein food techs run by Ryan Bethencourt and Mariliis Holm, and says the funding support will accelerate the development of its fungi-powered meats.
We will focus on expanding our team and building out our R&D to enable the production of our first steak prototypes.Alan Iván Ramos, Founder & CEO, Libre Foods
“We are excited to be building a company capable of reorienting the global food system and to be partnering with Sustainable Food Ventures for the next phase of our growth,” said Ramos.
“With their investment, we will focus on expanding our team and building out our R&D to enable the production of our first steak prototypes.”
After launching a beef steak, Libre Foods also plans on using recombinant fermentation to grow a range of different whole-cut meats, including poultry and seafood. Ultimately, the firm is ambitiously setting its sights on becoming the “world’s leading alternative protein provider of whole-cuts derived from fungal mycelium.”
Speaking with Green Queen Media, Ramos says that their first target market will be Europe before an international roll-out. “We aim to serve E.U. markets first, yet will quickly explore new, high-impact markets afterwards.”
Mycelium reproduces quickly, offers meat-like fibrosity and contains unique nutritional qualities superior to other protein sources. Fungi is the past, present and future.Alan Iván Ramos, Founder & CEO, Libre Foods
Ramos further shared his passion for the potential of fungi in the realm of alternative proteins, telling Green Queen Media: “Fungi have inhabited the planet since millions of years before humankind. They are such intelligent organisms, yet there is still so very little we know about them.”
“Mycelium is especially fascinating because it provides a real, tangible solution to decrease our reliance on exploitative practices across the food, fashion and materials space among others. In food applications, mycelium reproduces quickly, offers meat-like fibrosity and contains unique nutritional qualities superior to other protein sources. Fungi is the past, present and future,” he added.
While Libre Foods is the first-mover in Europe, it isn’t alone in the global picture when it comes to using fermentation to develop whole-cut meats. In New York, Atlast Food Co. uses mycelium to grow its popular animal-free bacon, and fuelled by an impressive US$40 million Series A, is planning to expand its range of whole-cut meat alternative portfolio.
Boulder, Colorado-based food tech Meati Foods is also using the root structure of mushrooms to make its range of meatless meats. Infusing natural flavourings such as chickpea miso, the startup has created realistic vegan-friendly steak and chicken breasts, which are slated to land on the market later this year.
Lead image courtesy of Libre Foods.