Future Food Tech

Tapping into the $2b+ mycelium market to improve alternative protein innovation

By Deniz Ataman

- Last updated on GMT

Source: Getty/lightshows
Source: Getty/lightshows

Related tags mycelium startups alternative proteins

Mycelium has a long history in food, but its potential for today’s consumer packaged foods (CPG) industry highlights the need for increased R&D in resourceful and responsible food production that helps address the challenges of a growing global population and environmental concerns.

In 2023, the mycelium market was valued at $2.79 billion with an expected compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of over 7.4% between 2024-2032, according to Global Market Insights data​. While mycelium’s use across industries reflects its versatility in a long list of applications, from construction and textiles to packaging, its use as an alternative protein has significant potential to address food waste, malnutrition and environmental health, in addition to flavor and texture expectations.

The root-like structure of a fungus, mycelium are composed of threadlike filaments that absorb nutrients underground and require little water, making it a vital factor in strengthening soil health. Companies within the mycelium space are leveraging fungi’s capabilities through fermentation techniques to produce protein-rich food products at scale, while addressing nutrition, taste and texture which has become a challenge for alternative proteins.

[Editor’s note: Interested in learning more about the fast-evolving alternative protein space? Join FoodNavigator-USA and ReThink at Future Food-Tech Alternative Proteins in Chicago June 17-18. The event will include in-depth discussions about how to elevate sensory experience and strategies to diversify protein consumption with novel microbial and cell-based options. Check out the full agenda​ and register​. ]

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Scalability can be achieved because ‘of the naturally exponential potential of fungi’

While mycelium brands are pushing towards price parity and affordability on shelves, it can be achieved because “of the naturally exponential potential of fungi,” compared to other food sources, Harold Schmitz, chair of the scientific board for Meati Foods wrote​. For example, Meati can produce a few spores “into a cow’s worth of protein in just four days,” compared to raising the cow over an average of 1.8 years.

Meati opened the doors to its 100,000 square-foot MegaRanch facility in Colorado last year. The plant has the capacity to produce more than 45 million pounds of product a year for its mushroom-based steaks and cutlets out of its 25,000 liter fermentation tanks.

Earlier this month, the company raised more than $100 million in C-1 funding and expanded into 2,000 Kroger Family stores bringing its retail footprint to more than 6,000 stores nationwide in over a year – positioning Meati as an increasingly accessible alternative protein product. This fundraising round takes place amid a challenging market for plant-based protein,​ with sales and production volumes dropping, and some grocery stores reducing their plant-based meat selection.

Kynda partners with Raging Pig for animal-free patties

German biotech company, Kynda​, earlier this year introduced its “first ever zero-waste mycelium-based food solution” for the European market. Kynda transforms agricultural by-products into a protein-rich ingredient that contains all nine essential amino acids, fiber and vitamins. According to the company, its mycelium fermentation produced via proprietary bioreactors emits 700% less greenhouse gas emissions than pea protein.

In March, the company partnered with food brand Raging Pig, which will integrate Kynda’s mycelium into mycelium-based burgers. For Raging Pig, the collaboration will help the company reduce its production costs while competing with meat producers, according to the company.

Maia Farms raises over $2m in pre-seed funding, accelerates mycelium production

Mycelium producer Maia Farms raised more than $2 million during its pre-seed financing round earlier this month, accelerating R&D and scaling operations for CanPro, its line of textured protein ingredients.

The Vancouver, BC-based company successfully raised funding between private capital and matching grant funds. The financing round was led by Joyful Ventures, PIC Group and Koan Capital, in addition to angel investors from Creative Destruction Lab.

“We are proud to announce our investment in Maia Farms, as their mission perfectly fits our investment thesis. Not only were we impressed by Maia’s mycelium protein, but we especially resonated with the scalability and viability of [its] technological innovations. Mycelium has a bright future for a more climate-positive, global food system and, as a Canadian, I am thrilled to see Canada become an early leader in this space,” Jennifer Stojkovic, general partner and co-founder at Joyful Ventures, said in a statement.

Joyful Ventures​, an LGBTQ+ - and-woman-led firm, launched its climate venture fund in 2023 prioritizing sustainable startups that focus on plant-based, precision fermentation, mycoproteins, molecular agriculture and cultivated technologies.

Maia Farms received significant grant funding from five institutions in the food research and technology space, including the Canadian Food Innovation Network, Research Council of Canada, The SFU BC Centre for Agrictech Innovation, MITACS and the Canadian Space Agency.

The funding “not only validates our fermentation approach but also strengthens our capacity to make a meaningful impact,” Gavin Schneider, CEO and co-founder of Maia Farms wrote in a statement.

Additionally, the funding will “further [the company’s] reach,” for Maia Farms’ product, CanPro. Made from mushroom and vegetables, CanPro is available in commercial volumes across North America and “is designed to be a nutrient-dense blank canvas that allows for culinary expression,” according to the company.

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