Interestingly, many of these startups are also working with different aspects of the fermentation process to scale their production. Learn more below:
Biofabrication: Cultured Leather
The altered DNA is added to new cells, which replicate and produce a specific kind of collagen required for bioleather using a modified fermentation process.
As collagen accumulates, it naturally binds together into a structure known as a "triple helix molecule," or "fibril," which denotes a rod-like shape made up of clusters of molecules that group together.
As collagen molecules start to form a network of fibers, these are assembled by Modern Meadow into a leather substitute. The material then undergoes a simplified tanning treatment, which is less chemically-intensive than regular textiles, to prevent decomposition while preserving suppleness.
Biolactation: Cultured Milk
Motivated by the idea of offering more sustainable dairy products using these principles, Perfect Day, a California-based startup, is working with natural microbes to produce dairy-free milk.
Instead of cattle farming, one of the leading sources of greenhouse gas emissions, or resource-intensive nut farming, the team at Perfect Day works with yeast and fermentation to culture casein and whey, the nutritious proteins found in milk.
Pairing cutting-edge science and the same fermentation process used in brewing, Perfect Day can produce lactose-free, vegan milks with the same nutrition as dairy-based milk.
Welcome to milk from microbes!
Unlike cultured foods like tempeh or seitan, where microbial cultures enhance the digestibility or flavor of cultivated plant proteins, a new generation of food producers are crafting protein from scratch.
From reducing our dependency on resource-intensive livestock farming, producing cholesterol-free (and meatless) meat to making the food system more sustainable through upcycling food waste, this is an exciting biotech sector to watch.
Afineur (the company behind eatCultured) is working with one of the main by-product from the food industry, which accounts for billions of tons of waste every year, to craft a nutritious and versatile vegan protein.
Beyond Meat is making plant-based products using pea protein, beets and other vegetables to create meat alternatives that look and taste like animal protein without the cholesterol.
In the meantime the scientists at Impossible Foods use their own innovation, heme (the key component of hemoglobin) extracted from plant leghemoglobin, to culture meatless meat using yeast that looks, tastes - and even bleeds - like real meat.
Each of these innovations offer consumers flavorful quality nutrition in return for a better ecological footprint.
Cultured Cooking Oil
Using biotechnology, the startup edits algae cells so their oil contains the same properties as plants naturally lower in saturated fat and higher in heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, like olives. The oil also has a naturally high smoke-point, which is useful for cooking.
Monounsaturated oil is comprised of fatty acids that contain a double bond rather than singular bond between each carbon atom. It is healthier to cook with than vegetable oils, which present their own health risks thanks to the formation of carcinogenic aldehydes during heating.
By working with these tiny plant-like microorganisms, the startup's oil offers a more traceable alternative to olive oil alongside a better ecological and chemical footprint than other crops.
As these startups show, biotech innovation has the potential to revolutionize the food industry using natural principles like fermentation to benefit our health and provide more sustainable, scalable alternatives.
Join us as we harness these principles to craft a new wave of plant-based foods that are not only healthier but tastier too.