Brevel scales up ‘ghost protein’ production from microalgae with $8.4 seed fundraiser
With the help of $8.4 million in seed funding announced today, Brevel is building a commercial pilot plant in Israel to expand production of its microalgae-based protein made with a proprietary technology that combines fermentation based on sugar with a high concentration of light to create an affordable, nutritional and multifunctional protein that could be on the shelves as early as the end of this year, CEO Yonatan Golan told FoodNavigator-USA.
Golan, who founded Brevel with his brothers Matan and Ido, explained that by combining these two production technologies, the company is able to overcome many of the challenges and shortcomings that have held back microalgae while tackling simultaneously with the disadvantages of the main vegetable protein sources. .
A more efficient method of producing microalgae
“Today, microalgae are produced either by photosynthesis in outdoor (or indoor) ponds or closed reactors, which are labor intensive, suffer from contamination, and produce at low yields and high costs” ,or in “fermentation tanks where sugar is added to the process and then microalgae grow at significantly lower costs and higher yields,”but because it happens in the dark”many of the ingredients, functionalities and benefits of microalgae are lost in the process,”said Golan.
Brevel, on the other hand, makes the most of each method by combining sugar-based fermentation and light in a single process to produce affordable microalgae at very high yields, rich with all the features, ingredients and nutrients that only are produced only in the presence of light, Golan added.
“Having light alongside sugar-based fermentation is a game-changer, which gives us a much better positioning compared to other microalgae companies since most of the valuable fractions are only produced in the presence of light,”he said, noting that Brevel’s protein has a complete amino acid profile and a very high digestibility score.
The unique process also allows Brevel to produce the microalgae for around 90% less than other microalgae production processes.
“In terms of sustainability”,Golan added, “Microalgae are by far the most sustainable source of protein on this planet. Compared to soy, which is today the first vegetable protein, microalgae are 99.95% more efficient in terms of soil, 67% more efficient in [greenhouse gas] emissions and 55% more efficient in the use of water.
Oppose soy and peas
Brevel’s unique approach to producing protein from microalgae also gives it an edge over more traditional plant-based proteins, including soy and pea, he claimed.
Golan explained that Brevel’s protein has a “very mild flavor and color making it very suitable for food applications where flavor masking is not an option”, as in plant-based alternatives to dairy and eggs.
“These food applications do not currently have suitable solutions at affordable costs”,because the main sources of protein – soybeans and peas – have very strong flavors, are allergenic and suffer from negative market perception, he said.
“For our first segment of partners, we actually try to be as inert as possible – to increase the nutritional profile of products without altering taste, color, texture or cost to the end consumer,” which led one pilot partner to describe it as a “phantom protein”because “it increases the protein content without you realizing it”,said Golan.
However, “have an excellent product in terms of flavor, color and functionality,”It’s not enough to usurp peas and soybeans, Golan acknowledged.
“If we cannot supply it at the cost levels of today’s major protein sources, we will remain a niche protein source and will not be able to meet the global challenges of sustainable nutrition,”he explained.
“The path to cost parity is through the ability to extract and valorize each of the different fractions of the microalgae independently,”he noted, adding, “We already have developments with the oil fraction and the pigments and are working on additional ingredients that can be produced.”
Brevel’s initial protein product is available as a dry powder, which Golan says can be added directly to powder form formulations or after further processing, such as homogenization or secondary fermentation to increase its solubility, extract additional flavors or other attributes depending on customers. needs and preferences.
Build a complete portfolio
Once the pilot plant is operational and commercial products are on the shelves, Golan added that Brevel will expand its offerings to include more functional benefits.
“In the second stage, we will seek to provide features such as gelling, texturing, emulsifying, etc., which are mainly suitable for fish and seafood alternatives”,he explained.
The seed funding will also allow Brevel to explore adding value for its partners and improve its products, he added.
“We are now augmenting our capabilities on the food technology side with more advanced equipment, food processing capabilities, advanced analytical tools and a food engineering team,”he said.
This is possible thanks in part to funding but also to investors, many of whom focus on dietary and alternative proteins and who “have great market relationships and are an incredible resource to open doors and help with strategic positioning,”said Golan.
Seed fund investors include FoodHack, Good Startup VC, Tet Ventures, and Nevateam Ventures, among others in the food tech industry. Israel’s Innovation Authority and the EU’s Horizon2020 program also contribute to the cycle.