Eat fungi, not animals
Nosh.bio uses filamentous fungi to produce raw materials for the food industry
Nosh.bio uses filamentous fungi to produce raw materials for the food industry. This can help save many animal-based materials – without making sacrifices in taste or consistency.
A low-meat or even meat-free diet is increasingly important to many consumers. At least, that’s what every second German is saying in surveys. In reality, the number is likely to be lower, but it’s still high enough to galvanise the food industry into creating more innovation.
Already today, there are countless products like burger patties, egg substitutes, or ice cream, that do not contain any animal ingredients. However, these alternatives are not catching on in the mass market. Mouthfeel and consistency can be a tad peculiar and a long list of additives is typically required for getting taste and texture right. Lastly, they tend to be expensive.
Nosh.bio GmbH is one of many companies seeking to change that. The Adlershof-based start-up relies on the protein of a type of filamentous fungus to create raw materials for food manufacturers. “This can be used to give a vegan burger patty a better shape and integrity without using a bunch of chemicals,” says Tim Fronzek, the company’s founder. Like glue, the mushroom protein holds the mass together while creating a pleasant mouthfeel, which was confirmed when testing with potential customers and other food professionals.
What makes this filamentous fungus so special? It is unable to form harmful toxins known as mycotoxins and is already approved as a foodstuff by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). By using it, Nosh.bio can avoid the lengthy and expensive approval procedures that other companies from the novel food industry must go through.
With currently eight employees in Adlershof as well as cooperation partners at the Danish Technical University in Copenhagen and the University of Guelph (Canada), the team is developing the technologies needed to extract and process the fungal protein. For this purpose, the filamentous fungi are grown in glass containers filled with water. “We add maltose extract as a carbon supplier,” Fronzek says. To improve the environmental impact even more in the future, they are planning to use materials like wastewater from potato processing. The mushrooms have grown sufficiently for harvest after 24 hours and up until 48 hours. They are placed into a cotton cloth to drain before they are further processed.
As the founder and long-time CEO of the retail company Rebuy, Fronzek switched from used electronics to mushrooms and meat substitutes. “It felt like a logical step,” says the founder. He wanted to jump into the deep end and into something that has a great leverage point for climate protection. “Eighteen percent of global greenhouse gas emissions are tied to factory farming,” he says. The conditions for animals and workers in the industry are often terrible. He has given up meat for years now himself and wants to make it easier for others to make the switch.
“A study of Boston Consulting Group has shown that every euro invested in alternative proteins affects the climate 13 times more than that same investment made into electromobility,” says Fronzek. He teamed up with Felipe Lino, a Brazilian bioscientist, founded Nosh.bio in 2022, and most recently raised 3.2 million euros in capital.
This money will be used to improve the technology, in terms of, say, more effective exploitation of energy. Producing food using biotechnology requires a lot of heat. The filamentous fungi, however, thrive at room temperature. Fronzek is planning to use the heat they produce during growth for other steps of the process.
“In the second half of the year, we are planning to get to a point where we can enter product development with our partners from the food industry,” he says. He can’t yet say when the first proteins made of filamentous fungi will hit the shelves. “We hope it will happen as quickly as possible.”
Ralf Nestler, Adlershof Journal