Mycellium-based Alternative Fish Fillet- ON-358

Project type: Research
Desired discipline(s): Engineering - chemical / biological, Engineering, Engineering - other, Food science, Life Sciences, Chemistry, Natural Sciences
Company: Anonymous
Project Length: 6 months to 1 year
Preferred start date: 09/01/2020
Language requirement: Flexible
Location(s): Toronto, ON, Canada
No. of positions: 2-4
Desired education level: CollegeUndergraduate/BachelorMaster'sPhDPostdoctoral fellow
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About the company: 

As part of the creation of a new alt-protein company, ~5 funded R&D projects are being offered to potential partners with the aim of producing components for a realistic, “raw” plant-based fish fillet. Projects are to last 6-12 months and produce tangible results that will aid in a venture capital fundraise for this new company, after which additional research may continue. Each project is designed to tackle a key problem inherent to existing plant-based seafood products in their inability to mimic actual fish - including the taste, texture, mouthfeel, color, macronutrients profile, cooking behavior, and added nutritional benefits (ex: Omega 3’s). The target species is Atlantic salmon; should research findings lend themselves better to other species, alternating the target species will be considered.

This project is being funded and led by Chris Bryson, an impact angel investor. Chris was the Founder and CEO of Unata (acquired in 2018 by Instacart), an eCommerce software provider. He founded Unata in 2011 and grew it to ~100 employees, becoming the 52nd Fastest Growing North American Tech Company (PROFIT 500 2016), Canada's #2 best small business workplace (Great Place to Work 2017),  and one of Canada's Top 20 Most Innovative Companies (CIX Awards 2016). 

Describe the project.: 

At present there are numerous plant-based meat options on the market where the product is unstructured and meant to mimic ground meat (e.g. Beyond and Impossible Burger) or flaked fish. However, recreating the whole fillet of conventional fish and all the associated textures and tastes is a longer-term technical challenge. One approach that has shown promise thus far for mimicking the muscle tissue fibers found in whole cuts of meat is growth of mycelium (roots of mushrooms). With this approach, large fungal structures can be grown into any form in a matter of days, and can in theory be subsequently dosed with fats and flavourings to create plant-based fish fillets with minimal additional processing required. From a sustainability standpoint, growth of mycelium is advantageous compared to other alternative protein production methods because solid state fermentation requires considerably less energy input as, for one, this bioprocess does not need to handle large volumes of fluid.

Based on the reported suitability of mycelium for recreating alt-protein versions of whole cuts of meat, this project is seeking to explore this process to develop a base protein matrix for an alt-protein Atlantic salmon fillet. Using a staged approach, Phase 1 will focus on identifying a candidate fungus to use as a substrate, and investigating various feed materials for use in the solid state fermentation bioprocess. Phase 2 will then explore techniques to generate the desirable scaffolding structure and texture from the mycelium material, and examine strategies to deposit proteins and fats onto the scaffolding. 

Required expertise/skills: 

We are looking for candidates with research backgournds and degrees in Food Science, Materials Science, Alternative Proteins, Process Engineering.