Plantbased Business Hour

Plantible’s Big Bet: Rubi Protein from the Lemna Leaf

Chief Commercial Officer of Plantible Foods, Morgan Keim, is on The Plantbased Business Hour with Elysabeth Alfano giving a special tour of the company’s lemna leaf (AKA duckweed) plant.

Morgan discusses the sustainability and scalability of Plantible’s Rubi Protein extracted from the lemna leaf and how Plantible is taking a nature-based solutions and using it to create clean, highly functional plant protein.  

Specifically, they discuss,

  1. What is the lemna leaf and why is it such a key part of the food chain?
  2. What infrastructure spending in need to bring Rubisco Protein from the Lemna Leaf to market?
  3. What are the functional benefits of using Rubi Protein, and
  4. How does it taste?

Below is a highlight clip from our long-form conversation which includes a tour of one of their greenhouse ponds and a taste test of some of their products. Podcast here.

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Elysabeth: I’m in San Marcos, California. You can see behind me the wheels that are turning. It might look a little bit like Willy Wonka’s factory. There’s a lot going on. I’m going to get into it because I’m at the pilot plant of Plantible Foods.

Fedor: So, what we see here is called a raceway pond. The lemna essentially goes around and as it goes over here where we can see the nutrients get closed in and throughout the day the lemna mat gets thicker and thicker as the Lemna divides and creates additional leaves. Then at some point the mat tends to get dense enough so we can harvest some of this Lemna and then take them to the processing facility to actually extract some of the protein out of it. So that’s what we have here.

We’re going to break down the leaves and then pull out the protein to be a white, oderless, highly functional protein. So that’s what’s going to happen.

Morgan Keim: This is a vegan gluten-free pound cake which you can ask some of the elite bakers- this is for you- ask some of the elite bakers and they’ll say this is one of the hardest things to replicate. You can’t really get an off-the-shelf egg replacement or gluten-free replacement and do this this way. You can already see as you’re pulling it apart, that it kind of still holds together. It’s moist and it’s decadent.

Aquatic plant Lemma
Image courtesy of Plantible

Elysabeth: So I don’t know if you can see but that’s very moist and it just breaks apart really well. It doesn’t really crumble. It’s very moist. It is so buttery and creamy and moist and really holds together like a pound cake and tastes like a pound cake, which is what you want. You want a silent ingredient.

Morgan Keim: Feel the spring when you kind of put your hands together. This is one of the ways in which this shines. It creates that push back, right?

Elysabeth: Yeah.

Morgan Keim: And think about that when you eat something like meat. You kind of want that push back. That’s missing in a lot of alternative protein products right now.

Elysabeth: It’s missing in chicken because the chickens are so sick that the chicken meat is so- ugh.

©Plantible Foods

I see now we’re moving on. Oh gosh, he’s got me two for the road. Now look at that (shows a macaron). So, who’s making these for you?

Morgan Keim: So, we actually have a whole product team in our Vista, California office. These were made under the leadership of our own PHC and former chef, Brock Coleman, who has really built out a lot of these.

Elysabeth: Oh, my word. I would not know that it isn’t anything but eggs. I wouldn’t think that it’s anything but eggs and butter.

Morgan Keim: So, this is going to actually be our first partnered commercial application. Now this is Plantible’s version of the macaron, but our first customer’s actually bringing this to market named Sweet Marissa. She’s on the East Coast. She has a store in Manhattan called Confectionary and so I would expect within a month you’ll be able to see these products there.

Elysabeth: Before we leave today, here we are (shows brioche bread). Wow, look at this you guys. Okay, so pulling it apart, squishing it, mmm. Here you can see this as I pull it apart.

Plantible launches plant-based egg replacer made from duckweed protein
Image courtesy of Plantible

Morgan Keim: So this has about three percent Rubisco, not even, a little bit less.

Elysabeth: Mmm, oh my gosh.

Morgan Keim: Totally animal- and allergen-free.

Elysabeth: It’s been ten years since I’ve had a brioche. Wow, that’s really awesome.

Elysabeth Alfano is the CEO of VegTech™ Invest, the advisor to the VegTech™ Plant-based Innovation & Climate ETF, EATV. She is also the founder of Plant Powered Consulting and the Host of the Plantbased Business Hour.  

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