Libre Foods, a Spanish biotech based in Barcelona, has been awarded a €335,000 public R&D grant by Neotec (a program that supports technology-based companies) to develop a low-cost mycelium ingredient for meat alternatives.
Mycelium holds the potential to enhance the texture and nutrition in meat alternatives; however, scaling its production to lower the final product’s costs remains an industry challenge, argues Libre Foods.
With the funds, the Spanish biotech plans to launch an advanced screening platform, integrating rapid imaging robotics and machine learning to discover and optimize fungi-based applications and accelerate product development. The platform could increase efficiency in R&D by more than 800 times, explains the company.
The technology’s first task will be developing a low-cost mycelium ingredient with a superior nutritional and organoleptic profile. Such a product will give the company a competitive edge to expand its business model and revenue streams.
“The use of high-throughput screening allows us to understand early which parameters are most determinant for yields and efficiency at scale, enabling us to scale both faster and cheaper,” comments Alan Iván Ramos, founder & CEO of Libre Foods.
Fungi’s one-of-a-kind potential
Last year, Libre Foods launched Europe’s first mushroom-based bacon at Spanish restaurants, Carrefour Spain, and with the Burger Warriors campaign. Using mushrooms instead of mycelium was an initiative to surpass the EU regulatory constraints of using a novel food (mycelium) as a food ingredient while getting a foothold on the market.
Meanwhile, the company has continued to develop mycelium-based alternatives. Recently, it unveiled a whole-cut chicken breast made with mycelium grown from a strain not considered a novel food. Since it doesn’t require regulatory approval, Libre Foods expects to commercialize its NPD soon.
“From the beginning, we’ve been fascinated with fungi’s one-of-a-kind potential to reinvent our food system”
Leveraging the new platform’s capabilities, the company will also screen fungi strains with novel functions and applications to create a toolbox of solutions for the food industry and accelerate the options of mycelium-based alternatives in the market.
A previous €2.2 million investment secured in 2022, along with this non-dilutive funding, brings the company’s raised capital to over $3.1 million.
“From the beginning, we’ve been fascinated with fungi’s one-of-a-kind potential to reinvent our food system and, more importantly, committed to unlocking that potential. With the technology to discover new fungi strains and their applications for the food industry, we take another important step forward in realizing that commitment,” Ramos adds.