Estonian Researchers Reach XPRIZE Finals with Pea-Based “Salmon Scented” Filet

GFI Europe grantee Sirli Rosenvald and researchers from the Estonian Centre of Food and Fermentation Technologies (TFTAK) reached the XPRIZE competition’s final stage with a realistic pea protein-based salmon filet that features a novel “salmon scented” oil.

XPRIZE encourages startups to develop alternative chicken breast or fish filet products that surpass conventional meat in terms of nutritiontaste, and texture. Chinese cultivated meat company CellX also reached the finals with a cultivated chicken breast

TFTAK is an Estonian multidisciplinary CRO founded in 2004 specializing in bioprocess optimization, food research, and developing innovative food and fermentation technologies. In 2022, Dr. Rosenvalt received funding from the GFI to further develop its salmon scent.

Sirli Rosenvald – CSO for food research © TFTAK

Salmon scent molecules

TFTAK uses plants to create eco-friendly solutions to reduce Europe’s reliance on traditional seafood sources. Its researchers have been developing technologies to create textures from plant-based protein that imitate various animal-based foods.

To develop a realistic salmon analog, the team uses an innovative approach to identify the chemicals associated with the fish’s scent and create a series of scent profiles. The method involves taking samples of salmon and “unpicking” the fish’s complex scent molecule by molecule. Sensory experts later determine which molecules release salmon’s smell while cooking.

TFTAK adds the identified molecules to fatty acids such as oils extracted from plants, algae, and microbes, transforming them into new functional ingredients that enhance the flavors of plant-based or cultivated fish.

TFTAK researchers reach the XPRIZE finals with an alt salmon filet

Creating sustainable seafood

At the XPRIZE semi-finals, TFTAK’s salmon samples had to pass evaluations for nutritional value, texture, environmental impact, and economic potential. The judges tasted the salmon to determine its similarity to real salmon, explained the Estonian center.

“We are genuinely happy and proud of reaching the finals. Competing with the world’s top food innovators and being among the final six shows the excellence of our researchers and the research facilities,” said Martin Lall, CEO of TFTAK.

Reaching the final stage of the XPRIZE competition means that TFTAK’s salmon delivers the necessary realistic characteristics to compete against other teams for the final prize of $12 million in 2024, with the total prize purse being $15M and $12M going to the winner. 

“For the last few years, we have been developing technologies in the TFTAK research laboratory to create textures from plant-based protein that imitate various animal-based foods.  We have taken a step forward by creating a pea protein-based product that has a texture similar to salmon fillet,” said Rosenvald in a TFTAK statement.

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