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
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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 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.
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.
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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.
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.
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.
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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 has a rich history of fermentation, and mushrooms have long been used as more than just a food source.
Gaurav explains that the company’s strategy is currently to work with partners to produce products that suit the Asian palette.
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.
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.
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.
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!!
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