Smallfood: Canadian FoodTech Debuts Microalgae Protein For Alt Meat That Can Be Grown in 7 Days

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Canadian microbial ingredient company Smallfood is debuting a new strain of microalgae that produces a novel “perfect protein” that can be used to develop alternative meats. Smallfood’s microalgae can be grown in just seven days using the firm’s proprietary fermentation technology, a process that is far less resource and carbon-intensive compared to animal-based proteins. 

Smallfood believes this unique strain of microalgae can help solve the challenges of our food system, offering a more sustainable protein source that has minimal impact on the environment, the company said on Tuesday (February 9). Commercial volumes of this new microalgae-based protein, which rivals the amino acid profiles of animal-based proteins, can be produced within just seven days using the firm’s biomass fermentation technology. 

The Halifax-based company, whose existing products are non-GMO alternative protein concentrates and isolates, discovered the strain after evaluating more than 20,000 microbes. Their work and development has been primarily funded by private investment and government grants in Canada totalling CA$20 million (approx. US$15.7 million). 

There is an incredible diversity of microbes spanning the entire planet so discovering one that produced the right type of protein for today’s demanding food industry was no simple feat.

Marc St-Onge, Founder & CEO, Smallfood
Smallfood leverages biomass fermentation (Source: Smallfood)

Read: Meet the startups using amazing algae to make everything from T-shirts to shrimp

“There is an incredible diversity of microbes spanning the entire planet so discovering one that produced the right type of protein for today’s demanding food industry was no simple feat,” commented Marc St-Onge, founder and CEO of Smallfood. 

“Determined, we ventured to the uncharted depths of the ocean to find the proverbial needle in a haystack. And now we have developed the process and technology that enables this discovery to come to market.”

According to Smallfood, their “perfect protein” emits 30-times less greenhouse gases compared to traditionally produced beef and slashes water consumption by 160-fold compared to farmed fish. It’s even more sustainable than existing plant-based protein sources like pea protein, with its microalgae-based protein ingredient requiring 16-times less land to produce. 

Right now, Smallfood is focused on launching their product through B2B channels, the company’s chief marketing officer Bessy Nikolaou told Green Queen Media

“Our market is B2B, not D2C at this time, with a focus on premium food and nutraceutical brands,” Nikolaou said. 

Many companies are now tapping into algae to develop a number of sustainable solutions (Source: 123rf)

Read: 8 things you need to know about the rising fermentation sector

Smallfood is a part of the emerging cohort of fermentation startups, a third-pillar of the alternative protein industry. Though less well-known than its neighbouring categories of plant-based and cell-based companies, the fermentation sector is viewed as having enormous potential to offer crucial solutions to feed the world sustainably

Our proprietary technology coupled with the incredible efficiency of our micro-organism yields a stellar protein ingredient to leading human nutrition companies, helping them achieve their sustainability objectives.

Joe Agnew, CSO, Smallfood

Among some of the startups in the fermentation industry include Perfect Day, the San Francisco food tech that makes real dairy proteins using precision fermentation technology. Smallfood, on the other hand, leverages biomass fermentation, which takes the high-protein and fast-growing content of microorganisms as an ingredient to produce large amounts of protein.

“Our proprietary technology coupled with the incredible efficiency of our micro-organism yields a stellar protein ingredient to leading human nutrition companies, helping them achieve their sustainability objectives” explains Joe Agnew, chief strategy officer at Smallfood. 


Lead image courtesy of Smallfood. 


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