Danish enzyme and microbial technology provider Novozymes is calling on the agrifoodtech community to rally behind the future of sustainable protein. The company recently launched a new business collaboration effort called the Myco-Protein Innovation Call, which aims to scale up the most promising innovations and ideas around using fungi as a source of protein.
“Mycelium is what our company is built on, it’s one of its core competencies,” says Valerio Nannini, general manager, advanced protein at Novozymes. “We acknowledge that through the right partnerships we can get to better solutions, faster – which is what the world needs right now.”
Lately, a number of startups have identified the potential of fungal mycelium to create various alternative proteins, including whole-cut meat analogs, vegan bacon, and cream cheese. These startups are attracting VCs, too. Recently, fungal alt-bacon maker Atlast raised $40 million in Series A funding while Meati closed a $50 million Series B round to scale up its fungi fermentation process to create whole cuts.
Novozymes today claims a 50% share of the global enzyme market and has made a strategic commitment to discover and develop protein ingredients via fermentation. It hopes that the Myco-Protein Innovation Call will provide a distinct space where companies focused on new ways of working with mycoproteins can benefit from networking with one another.
Startups, research centers, academics, corporates, NGOs, and public entities are all invited to join Novozymes in its effort to continue the rapid acceleration and commercialization of mycoproteins and allied technologies.
“There are so many innovative, knowledgeable, and relevant players within the space and we believe that through collaboration we can put this puzzle together and find better solutions,” Nannini says.
“We know we need to start doing things differently. Rather than a pitch or startup competition where we search the global ecosystem to find the best solutions or projects, we invite everyone from startups to NGOs to large corporations to join us for collaboration.”
The Myco-Protein Innovation Call is focused on five areas:
- New technologies to cultivate fungal mycelium including media, new formats, and automated continuous systems;
- Upgrade of waste streams by fungal fermentation such as identifying alternative sources of substrate through waste streams;
- New ways of using fungal mycelium as ingredients, such as protein enrichment of food products through better strains and processing;
- Improvements in the nutritional value of plant protein sources by fermentation to reduce anti-nutritional factors; and
- Characterization and analytical tools to evaluate the positive benefits from fungal fermentation.
Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis until January 31, 2022.
Teams that are selected to participate in the Myco-Protein Innovation Call will be invited to co-design a formal collaboration where Novozymes will serve as a key collaboration partner and catalyst for scaling up mycoprotein solutions. Some of the potential opportunities for collaboration in the program include co-development and formal partnerships with Novozymes.
“What matters to us is that it is mutually beneficial. We will engage in dialogues with all the incoming projects to figure out whether we can find ways to work together that will benefit us both,” Nannini says.
This means access to Novozymes’ extensive network of labs, production facilities, and R&D experts as well as distribution channels and potential investment. The right applicants would need to share Novozymes’ views around open innovation and the need for players in the industry to work together to accelerate mycoprotein.
As evidenced by its recent announcement of a $316 million investment in a production site in Nebraska, Novozymes is ready to invest in this space – and collaborations via the Myco-Protein Innovation Call could also include investments, Nannini says.
“This is about development and growing business together. It is based on the philosophy that we need to collaborate to find new ways to solve the problems we see in the food system.”