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Specialty minerals company ICL Food Specialties, and Protera Biosciences, have partnered on an AI-backed tech to create protein-based products via precision fermentation.
The collaboration between Israel’s ICL and Chile’s Protera follows ICL’s 2021 investment into Protera through its ICL Planet Startup Hub. Protera raised $10 million in a Series A last year.
The companies say the new partnership will help to develop and commercialize sustainable protein-based ingredients through the novel precision fermentation technology that sees genetically modified microbes produce proteins identical to those made by animals without the need for animals.
Current market demands
“These clean-label ingredients will address current market demands and offer a replacement for chemical additives or less appealing ingredients,” the companies said in a statement. “They will also improve the sensory properties in plant-based food applications, while positively impacting the world’s food security challenges.”
Protera uses a deep-learning platform it calls Madi, which it says can predict and match the structure and functionality of vegetable proteins. Its database features more than 1.5 billion edible protein sequences. It then matches the proteins to the current precision fermentation parameters, which it says results in products with a short list of ingredients compared to a number of plant-based protein alternatives.
Other companies including the Bay Area’s Eat Just and fellow Chilean startup NotCo, are also using deep learning AI tools to crack the codes on protein. Eat Just credits its tech for the development of its mung bean-based egg. NotCo has used it to develop plant-based dairy and meat products.
“Thanks to this collaboration, we can offer novel ingredients via breakthrough technology currently not available in the market,” says Hadar Sutovsky, ICL vice president of External Innovation and general manager of ICL Planet. “Once these functional ingredients are launched, food manufacturers will be able to speed up development of clean-label and sustainable plant-based products.”
Tapping the untapped ingredients
Under the new partnership, the platform will identify still-untapped plant-based proteins with high-performance potential which the companies say can replace common texturizers, stabilizers, and preservatives. This, the companies say, makes replacing emissions-heavy animal products easier than ever.
“We’ll soon be able to provide global market access to these ingredients for key food producers, in a sustainable manner,” says Rado Sporka, vice president of the Food Specialties Commercial Business for ICL. “This will further diversify and strengthen ICL’s engagement and offerings in the alternative proteins space and accelerate impactful solutions for global environmental challenges.”
“We are excited about this collaboration with ICL Food Specialties to bring new proteins to market,” adds Leonardo Alvarez, founder and CEO of Protera. “Combining the forces of our two companies will dramatically accelerate our vision of using biology to create protein-based ingredients. We already are validating functional targets in the lab, with unprecedented speed and accuracy.”
Precision fermentation is already widely used across the dairy sector with U.S.-based Perfect Day leading the category. Most recently, multinational food giant Unilever announced that it was exploring the tech as a means to address its dairy-based products’ footprints. The parent company to Magnum, Breyers, and Ben & Jerry’s, could be the first major food company to launch ice cream made from precision fermentation dairy.
Lead image courtesy Jae Park on Unsplash.