California-based Plantible Foods is on the mission to revolutionise the food industry by developing the most functional and sustainable plant protein using lemna (also known as duckweed). Being 50,000 times more protein efficient than beef and even hundred times more protein efficient than soy, lemna has the potential to become the ultimate protein source.
Plantible Foods has recently completed a pre-seed funding round led by Unshackled Ventures. The funding will allow Plantible Foods to finalise its proprietary extraction technology and start working with leading food scientists on commercialisation. We spoke with co-founders Tony Martens and Maurits van de Ven about their revolutionary product.
Can you introduce Plantible Foods to our readers?
At Plantible we are making “egg whites” from plants. We are on a mission to create a truly sustainable global food system by inventing an efficient, sustainable way to transform plants into delicious and functional proteins. We do this by harnessing the power of the humble, but awe-inspiring lemna. Being considered one of the world’s most sustainable and nutrient dense plants, lemna contains one of the most valuable proteins in the world; a protein that behaves just like egg-whites and has an amino acid profile that is comparable to whey, while also being allergen free and non-GMO. That is why we are developing innovative technologies to cultivate and process this mesmerizing plant.
What makes lemna so special and how is it different from other plant-based protein sources?
On average, lemna doubles in mass every 36 hours, while it can be grown year-round. This results in a very stable and consistent but also scalable supply of biomass. Other plant-based protein sources have annual crop cycles and are therefore more prone to the ever-increasing unpredictable weather patterns.
In addition, lemna is a 100 times more efficient in producing protein compared to soy, and even 400 times more protein efficient when comparing it to peas. This makes lemna an incredibly sustainable source of proteins, as it doesn’t require arable land to be cultivated and its water footprint is significantly lower than that of other plant-based crops.
As the crop is not reliant on soil, it can be cultivated in near proximity customers and consumers, increasing the transparency and traceability of the supply chain. The protein in Lemna is a complete protein (containing all essential amino acids) while it is also much more digestible than many of the other plant-based proteins.
How can the protein from lemna be used?
The protein can be used in many different types of formulations ranging from meat and dairy alternatives, to health & wellness products as well as snacks.
Depending on the category, the product could for example replace wheat gluten, soy, pea or even mung bean protein.
What sustainability issues does this protein address?
With a rising global population more food will need to be produced while we are running into the maximum utilization of arable land and fresh water.
By harnessing the power of lemna, we can convert non-arable land into a “arable land” by leveraging hydroponic techniques that produce high quantities of high quality proteins, while reducing the need of fresh water.
In addition, we hope to be able to improve both the quality and the price of food products that should shift consumers from an animal-based diet to a plant-based diet. With animal farming being the single largest contributor to climate change, it is very important that we develop products that are better in taste and better in texture than the “real deal” in order to convince mainstream consumers to give up the food products that they currently are consuming.
When and where will your product be available?
We will be an ingredient supplier to CPG companies and will work towards commercialization in the near future.
What is Plantible Foods’ mission and how do you hope to achieve it?
We are on a mission to revolutionize the food industry by harnessing the power of the humble, awe-inspiring lemna to create the world’s best plant-based protein. By our continuous focus on the needs of our customers, we hope to be able to produce a protein that is not only incredibly functional and nutritional but perhaps most importantly, also enables food formulators to create the most delicious products. Meanwhile, the nature of our crop and our sustainability mindset, will not only make CPG companies and consumers happy, but also our planet!
What are your plans for the end of 2018 and 2019?
Our goal is to introduce our protein not only to our customers but also to the end-consumer and have them become aware of the unique features of lemna and its protein.
Where do you see Plantible Foods in the next five years?
We hope to be a trusted partner of those companies that are trying to shift consumers to a healthier and more responsible diet, by offering a unique protein ingredient that will enhance the taste, texture and nutritional profile of their products.