Mycorena on using biotechnology for the first fungi-based fat ingredient from mycelium
Founder and CEO Ram Nair states: ”I’d say that it’s taking the whole plant-based industry to another level.”
By JOHAN MAGNUSSON
January 27, 2022
According to Nair, Gothenburg-based Mycorena is now one of the fastest-growing foodtech companies in Europe.
— Using biotechnology, he tells, we have developed a unique fungi-based protein source that is produced through fermentation. With our proprietary process, we produce the product Promyc, an alternative protein ingredient that can be used in food applications and meat analogues. This offers food manufacturers all over the world a healthier and more sustainable substitute to existing animal- and plant-based protein sources on the market. We also offer a wealth of expertise in the field of biotechnology and food technology to customers and partners who are interested in working with mycoprotein and learning more about the endless properties of fungi.
How’d you explain what fungi is? And what makes it so special?
— If you think about fungi, it can be split into two parts, says Nair. The mushroom that you see in the forest is the fruiting body of fungi, whereas mycelium is a large fibrous structure that you find underground from where the fruiting body grows. Thanks to the advantageous properties of mycelium, you can develop all sorts of products, from furniture to food. We saw an opportunity to provide food that’s better for your health and for our planet. Since mycelium is a natural source of protein and fibers, it can be transformed into a meat-like form, which closely resembles animal muscle fibers. The mycelium of our fungi contains up to 60% protein in dry weight and 12% fiber, and we grow it in a liquid environment with few or none fruiting bodies. Using our proprietary down-streaming process, the mycelium becomes Promyc, a high-quality protein ready-to-use in food applications.
Mycorena has also developed Promyc fat, the first fungi-based fat ingredient, from mycelium.
— I’d say that it’s taking the whole plant-based industry to another level. Developing fat substitutes has been one of the biggest challenges for the plant-based industry in its quest to mimic animal meat successfully. Creating products that are like traditional meat products is still principal for gaining consumer acceptance. So far, oils and other additives used to replace animal fat have not been able to contribute to the sought-after and added flavour. Using mycelium, we have developed a product that can contribute flavour and behave in a sense similar to animal fat. Since we released the news of this development in November, we are pleased to have received so much interest worldwide. As such, we have begun the process of integrating selected customers into our beta-testing program so that they can get access to testing our fat solution already in the coming months, Nair tells.
Recently, the company has joined forces with classic Swedish bread manufacturer Polarbröd and vegan startup Peas of Heaven for two partnerships.
— Our collaboration with Peas of Heaven is an excellent example of how we work with other food manufacturers to develop new products. In this case, a vegan sausage which, in fact, is the first vegan sausage made from a combination of pea protein and mycoprotein. Using Promyc as an ingredient added many valuable parameters to the final product, especially in terms of taste, texture, and nutrients.
— Polarbröd, on the other hand, is a different type of project, yet a great example of how our technology can contribute to a more circular economy. Polarbröd experiences a lot of side streams that become waste. A huge problem for the industry but an important one to tackle in order to become more sustainable. As part of this project, we have found a way to use these side streams to feed our fungi and produce more mycoprotein, Nair explains.
Mycorena’s commercial production plant is currently being built in Falkenberg, about an hour from the headquarter in Gothenborg, on the Swedish west coast.
— We are already able to produce tons of Promyc at our Mycorena Innovation and Development Centre (MIND) facility here in Gothenburg. However, when the new plant is finished, at the end of this year, we will be ready to provide customers with thousands of tons of Promyc, starting in 2023. We are currently expanding our production here even further to cope with the demand we are already experiencing and to make sure we always stay ahead with new innovations.
— We do have a lot of interesting technical projects in the pipeline, and a bunch of interesting collaborations with food manufacturers both from Scandinavia and from the rest of Europe, which will be announced in the coming months, Nair concludes.
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