Meet Asia's First Mycoprotein Technology Company - Alt-Protein Primer #3

Mycovation are making the future of B2B protein ingredients by harnessing the miraculous power of mycelium fermentation

📣 Hey there: Do you like what you read today? Click the 💟 “Like” button at the bottom of this page and share insights with your colleagues and friends:

About us: MarketShake is curated by GourmetPro. We help F&B brands and companies enter or expand in Japan by providing bespoke matching to our exclusive network of bilingual consultants. Exploring opportunities in Japan's F&B industry? GourmetPro has the perfect expert to guide you. Explore our services.

Happy Tuesday Market Shakers. Today we bring you an interview with Mycovation, which brands itself as Asia’s “first mycoprotein technology company”.

This post is part of our “Alt-protein Primer” series that asks and answers the questions: “what are alt-proteins and how are they made?”. This interview highlights how a real company uses some of the technologies and processes that we introduced last week to make alt-proteins.

Mycovation is a B2B ingredients company based in India and Singapore. They are harnessing the power of mycelium fermentation to develop the future of alternative protein. Mycovation says they are aiming to package the awesome power of fermentation inside an A.I.-powered system which companies can use to custom-build novel ingredients that are vegan, natural and better tasting.

We spoke with Mycoprotein’s Vice President, Commercialization, Gaurav Vora to find out how the company is pioneering mycelium fermentation in the APAC region.

The wonders of Mycelium

Mycelium has limitless potential as an ingredient and raw material for alternative protein products.

Mycelium is the network of fungal fibres which commonly sprouts mushrooms. It can stretch up to 2,000 acres beneath forest floors, where it commonly grows. It is the natural composting mechanism of the forest, helping to break down matter and producing nutrients which feed the soil and plants.

Mycelium has several benefits that make it a promising ingredient. First, it’s packed full of protein and naturally forms meat-like fibrous structures. It grows quickly and is highly resource efficient - requiring little space and food, and producing minimal waste. Innovators are using it to produce everything from leather to medicine. Examples like Quorn also show it has enormous potential as a source of alternative proteins for human consumption.

If you think about most alternatives today, they are plant-based. The major ingredients, pea, soy, and wheat, have strong off-notes when used to make meat and dairy analogues. They’re also allergenic and difficult to digest. 

Mycelium is a superior option in many aspects. It has natural umami flavour without the off-notes that plant-based ingredients have. It has far fewer allergens compared to plant-based products too. And, the texture is more meat-like due to the long fibrous structure of mycelium.

That's just the raw material. When you ferment it, we also unlock many unique secondary nutrients, and the protein breaks down making it easier to digest. In short, it offers even more health benefits than plant-based products.

In addition to nutrition, Mycovation is excited about the sustainability of Mycelium. It uses approximately one-twentieth of the land area to produce the same amount of protein as soy. It’s much less water-intensive too.

Mycovation’s Innovation Platform

Mycovation’s offering is not just mycelium, however. Their 3Cs platform (Configure, Construct and Consume) helps companies identify the optimal ingredients and production processes to develop ingredients and supplements to make their desired alternative protein products.

Like what you’re reading?

Configure, Construct and Consume

The first step in their process is configuring a formula of ingredients. Mycelium has hundreds of potential strains and Mycovation’s offering is about cataloguing the strains and identifying how they work with different substrates. 

Substrates are the medium that mycelium feeds on to grow. For food uses, substrates can be a cocktail of plant-based products like legumes and cereals. Substrates can enhance the nutritional properties of mycelia, such as the quality and amount of protein. 

Different target products require different optimal mycelium strains and substrates to grow on. A salmon fillet analogue may be better produced from one specific mycelium strain fed on a specific substrate. Mycovation are building a database of this very information. 

Powered by A.I. and machine learning, the database can analyze the properties of strains and substrates, spitting out the perfect combination to achieve a target alt-protein. It goes as far as recommending the optimal fermentation tech to produce the ingredients.

Producers who use the system will incorporate the mycelium protein from Mycovation with other ingredients to formulate their end alt-protein products.

Mycovation uses biomass and traditional fermentation to build its ingredients. The company leverages both solid-state and submerged fermentation techniques to build its MyX and Mymic line of ingredients. The solid-state fermentation output ferments plant sources to enhance its taste and nutrition while submerged fermentation produces biomass that can produce whole-cut meat analogue with high protein concentrations 

Ingredients to enhance plant-based meats

Mycovation will use its 3Cs platform to develop ingredients for food processing companies. From raw materials for alternative meat and fish to functional ingredients such as flavour enhancers, the applications of mycelium are diverse.

Initially, we’re working on our ingredient product line called “MyX”. With this we are developing ingredients that make plant-based ingredients taste closer to meat. We can also produce ingredients that mask the off flavours in plant-based meats and milk for example. Our ingredients additionally have all essential amino acids and other nutritional benefits for use to supplement plant-based products. 

Share the gift of information with your friends and colleagues:

Mycovation is scaling its MyX product line towards commercialization and is currently building Mymic to produce biomass at a pilot scale. Their first product line MyX55 is already being used by a Singaporean company to produce bak kwa (a dried BBQ jerky). 

A new opportunity in Asia

When Mycovation began exploring how to resolve problems facing Asia’s food system, they were shocked to find a white space for mycelium fermentation.

Asia and the APAC region face a looming protein crisis. Our current food system can’t produce enough to meet the demands of growing populations like India and China. People are already undernourished as it is. There are also economies like Singapore, Hong Kong, and even Japan, that are too dependent on imports. The need for new, sustainable protein sources is glaring. As was the absence of mycelium.

Asia has a rich history of fermentation, and mushrooms have long been used as more than just a food source. 

Traditional forms of Chinese medicine use mushrooms. Asian cuisine makes use of a very diverse variety of mushrooms too. This definitely makes the region amenable to fungus-based proteins. The rich nutritional value has been understood for centuries.

Gaurav explains that the company’s strategy is currently to work with partners to produce products that suit the Asian palette. 

As the first company to develop alternative proteins using Mycelium in Asia, we have to fill another white space. We need products that suit local tastes. We can’t just copy and paste what overseas companies like Quorn or Natures’ Fynd are doing. 

Take Singapore - a key market for us. An ingredient from the MyX product line is being trialled by a Singaporean company to produce the world’s first myco noodles.

India is also in our sights as a high potential future market. Consumers eat a lot of cottage cheese and we’re developing mycoprotein ingredients for that application.

Being the first on the scene has a lot of benefits, but there are challenges for Mycovation too.

Marketing a new alternative protein

Companies and their customers in Asia are not familiar with mycelium-based ingredients. Mycovation is selling B2B, and education is key to acquiring new customers.

Right now, we are doing a lot of outreach and going to conferences and expos. We’re also leveraging social media to find customers. 

We’re building a robust social media presence which educates end consumers about our product and its benefits. This makes things easier for the food companies who need to sell this product. Secondly, we need to showcase the possible applications for our ingredients as this helps customers visualize the possibility.

According to Gaurav, the selling points of mycoprotein in Asia are currently the health benefits and functional properties for improving the taste and texture of plant-based meat. Customers in Asia are still not yet sensitive to the sustainability angle.

We’re not focussing too much on the incredible sustainbility of mycelium as a protein source in Asia just yet. Customer sensitivity to this aspect is still growing. For now we need to market the functional and nutritional benefits of our ingredients.

Mycovation is setting up its MyX product line at a commercial scale in order to understand the production cycle and showcase its products. Gaurav explains that in the future they will look to outsource production to partners, however.

Regulation is a barrier

The potential of mycelium is not quite limitless when it comes to regulations, however. 

Regulations for mycelium-based ingredients have not been defined in most countries. There’s uncertainty around how to handle these products in different markets. There’s also a sense that cultivated proteins are higher up on governments' agendas in APAC. 

Gaurav explains that given the nutritional and sustainable credentials of mycelium, and the growing number of players producing mycelium-based proteins, regulations should be clarified in the near future.

With COVID-19 having exposed the fragility of our global food supply, especially in import-dependent countries in Asia, sustainable protein sources like Mycovation’s are essential to ensure the future of our food system. 

That’s all folks

A huge thank you to Gaurav Vora for taking the time to interview with us and explain Mycovation’s technology.

See you next Tuesday as we dive back into how alternative proteins are made. Next time: precision fermentation and cell cultivation!!

💌 If you have any questions, you can directly answer this email. We read and answer all messages.

💖 And if you think someone you know might be interested in this edition of Market Shake, feel free to simply forward this email or click the button below. 💖

👉 P.S.: GourmetPro is also on Linkedin and Twitter!