MycoTechnology Inc., a mushroom fermentation platform that manufactures protein and other ingredients, was selected as the winner of the Radicle Protein Challenge by Syngenta, earning the company a $1 million investment. The goal of the challenge was for Radicle Growth and Syngenta to identify companies with novel solutions to support the future of protein (which could include new or experimental protein sources, or protein conversion technologies) and help to solve challenges that are facing the food sector.
There were over 150 applications for the challenge, and organizers narrowed down the candidates to four finalists, all of which delivered virtual presentations to a panel of judges on Monday. BlueNalu Inc, an innovative food company making healthy, safe, and trusted seafood products directly from fish cells, was awarded the $250,000 runner-up investment. Both MycoTechnology and BlueNalu will also get access to Radicle’s network and resources, as well as a variety of opportunities through Syngenta.
The other two finalists were Cell Farm, Latin America’s first cultured meat startup creating stem cell lines and growth media for the cellular meat industry, and Trophic, a plant-based protein innovator extracting protein from seaweed for a “meatier” plant-based protein.
MycoTechnology’s novel, organic food processing platform transforms agricultural material into functional ingredients that address the biggest problems in the food and beverage industry. The company is based in Denver, where it works out of one of the largest food-production facilities in the world, and has 30 current patents along with 50 patents pending.
During the presentation, Alan Hahn, the company’s CEO, said that it’s goals include reducing people’s sugar intake, creating sustainable protein, and helping to address global nutritional shortfalls.
MycoTechnology’s products such as ClearTaste can help to reduce the bitterness of something like chocolate, so that the natural flavors come out. Essentially, less sugar is needed to make the desired flavors “pop.” Other product applications include enabling a plant-based food without the excessive “planty” taste. For example, PureTaste can help a food item hold more water and more oil, making a juicer and better-tasting product, with potentially fewer additives and a fraction of the sugar, salt, and fat.
“Global food security is a major issue that will only be solved through innovation and partnerships,” Hahn said after winning. “I believe that our unique mushroom fermentation platform, combined with Syngenta’s global scale and expertise, will allow us to play a pivotal role in helping to feed an exponentially growing population.”
The runner-up, BlueNalu, was co-founded by Lou Cooperhouse. He said that his company is improving the global supply chain gap in seafood, while focusing on food security and personal welfare. BlueNalu’s food production through isolating stable cell lines helps to address health concerns people have about mercury and pollutants in seafood, as well as environmental concerns centered on habitat damage and bycatch.
“BlueNalu is developing seafood products, directly from fish cells, that will be healthy and nutritious for people, sustainable for our planet, and will facilitate food security for nations around the world,” he said.
In opening remarks, Erik Fyrwald, the CEO of Syngenta Group, said, “To keep up with increasing demand [in our food system], systemic changes are necessary.”
Fyrwald noted, “The demand for protein is rising and as a result the need for new protein technologies is increasing in every geography, socioeconomic background and age group. This is not a fad, but rather a new way consumers are getting their protein.”
While the judging presentation was conducted Monday, the finalists did abbreviated pitches to an audience on Tuesday, during which cultured-meat startup Cell Farm was voted as the People’s Choice Award Winner. The company will have a chance to work with Radicle Growth and Syngenta executives to plot out its future in the food industry.