Startups developing plant-based shellfish and microalgae nutrition join programme to accelerate products to market

Startups from four continents among latest participants of ProVeg Incubator programme

14-Apr-2023 - Germany

Plant-based shrimps, alternative protein from microalgae and the ingredients for mass producing cultivated meat are among foods being developed by startups taking part in a global programme to accelerate climate-friendly products to the market. 

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Under the ProVeg Incubator programme, 12 startups from across the globe have been picked to receive one-on-one mentoring, access to an extensive network of industry contacts, and up to €300,000 in funding and in-kind services to accelerate their alternative protein products to market. 

“Plant-based foods emit half the amount of greenhouse gases compared to animal-based foods1 so it is vitally important to offer tasty meat alternatives at meal times,” Albrecht Wolfmeyer, International Director of ProVeg Incubator, said.

“These innovative alternatives go a long way towards helping transform the food system for the better, reducing the huge environmental pressures placed on the planet by animal agriculture. We are excited to see so many startups launching new products that are dedicated to this cause,” he added. 

ProVeg Incubator was set up in 2018 and was the first programme in the world to offer business support for plant-based and cultivated food.

Cultivated foods are also included in the Incubator programme because they promise huge sustainability benefits over conventional meat. The latest life-cycle assessment shows that cultivated beef could result in a reduction of 92% of carbon footprint if renewable energy is used in the production process, 95% of land use and 78% of water requirements, compared to conventional beef production2.

Who’s in the programme?

A total of 12 startups, all under three years old, are taking part in the programme, which starts this month. Here they are: 

  • Be Better My Friendfrom the Netherlands have developed plant-based butter and cream alternatives for professional pastry chefs.
  • Food Squaredin the UK  are creating next-generation plant-based shellfish, starting with plant-based shrimp. 
  • Ergo Bioscience in Argentina and the US  are creating and reproducing complex animal proteins by plant cell precision fermentation. 
  • Plant Origin in Thailand are developing plant-based protein alternatives using byproducts of rice production. 
  • Fattastic Technologies in Singapore is developing a plant-based fat alternative that improves the sensory properties of alternative protein products.
  • Propel Foods in Mexico are using artificial intelligence to produce frozen, ready-to-eat, plant-based meals including tacos, burgers and chorizos. 
  • Algrow Biosciences in Singapore are creating sustainable and nutritious protein using microalgae. 
  • MycoSure in South Africa are developing fungi-based fermentation technology to provide nutraceutical ingredients in a scalable and cost-effective way.
  • StarPlants in China and Israel is a plant-based food company specialising in chickpea milk and snacks. 
  • SomaTech in Ireland uses fungal mycelium to create affordable, functional protein-rich food ingredients. (No website currently).
  • Sticta Biologicals in Chile uses customised serum-free culture media, which includes proteins and ingredients for the mass production of cultivated meats.
  • Bygg Foods in the US are developing a product line including plant-based milk and vegan protein powder, created from upcycled ingredients. 

Since its launch in late 2018, the ProVeg Incubator has supported more 80 startups from around the world, including Remilk, Better Nature, Vly Foods, Bosque Foods, Haofood, Omni, Kern Tec, Greenwise, Mushlabs, Formo, Hooked, the Live Green Company, and the Nu Company.

Collectively, the ProVeg Incubator’s alumni have raised more than €250 million, with products stocked in over 15,000 stores worldwide.

Current trends in alternative protein startups 

  • Tough investment landscape. Startups are finding it harder to find lead investors and close rounds, while rounds and due diligence are taking longer. Many investors are less active and are focusing on portfolio support.
  • The rise of Asia Pacific. ProVeg is increasingly speaking to startups in this region, echoing the recent findings by the Good Food Institute APAC that investments into alternative protein companies in Asia Pacific rose by 43% from 2021 to 2022 in all three pillars of alternative proteins: plant-based, fermentation, and cultivated.
  • Precision and biomass fermentation (mycelium). ProVeg is seeing more startups developing in these areas and the offerings are promising in terms of impact and potential scale-up. 
  • Innovative plant-based solutions to replace conventional ingredients. ProVeg is seeing some promising alternatives coming through, including butter, egg, milk and shrimp, both for food producers and food service.
  • Precision fermentation platforms as enablers. This is an exciting area and ProVeg is seeing more startups exploring it for creating cultivated meat mediums, and plant cell cultivation as a new way to express complex animal proteins like caseins and myoglobin.
  • Next-gen nutrition. The ultra-processed argument against many plant-based products is a hot topic. By applying AI, upcycling side streams of the food industry and leveraging new ingredients, the startups in our cohort aim to provide clean label, nutritious, healthy and less-processed solutions, as this is top of the list for consumers, food producers, retai

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