At the Good Food Conference today biotech company Ecovative announced it was spinning out Atlast Food Co., a new company entirely dedicated to creating mycelium scaffolding for meat alternatives.
As I wrote about Ecovative/Atlast earlier this year:
The company first developed a mycelium platform 12 years ago to use as sustainable packaging material. Then, a few years ago, they started developing a marshmallow-like mycelium foam, called “Atlast,” which could be used as scaffolding for tissue engineering. Ecovative co-founder and CEO Eben Bayer told me over the phone that they can grow the mycelium into a shape that emulates meat fibers, then infuse it with plant-based fats, flavors, and seasonings. In short: they can use it as a scaffold to grow meat.
It seems that Ecovative has realized that there’s enough potential in growing meat alternative scaffolding to merit a dedicated company. According to Andy Bass, Ecovative’s Director of Marketing, Atlast will partner with companies to help them develop bespoke whole cuts of plant-based and cell-based meat.
So far, Atlast has tested their mycelium into a scaffold for plant-based bacon. I haven’t had a chance to try it myself, but based off of the video below it actually looks pretty tasty.
Ecovative is striking while the plant-based iron is hot — and primed to grow. Most meatless meats available now have a processed texture, such as burgers, chicken nuggets or sausages. In order to take a real chunk out of the meat industry, alternative companies will have to figure out a way to make whole cuts of meat — like steak or chicken breast — out of plants. And one of the biggest challenges standing in their way is texture.
Atlast’s technology could be even more critical to cell-based meat. Thus far, the majority of companies have been able to grow meat with a “ground” texture, though cultured meat companies are experimenting with 3D printing and even spinach leaves as tools to improve texture. Even Aleph Farms, which is making cell-based steak, has only been able to make thin sheets the size of a credit card. There’s a big opportunity for someone to come in and provide a scaffolding solution, especially as cultured meat inches closer to hitting the market.
Bass wouldn’t disclose future partners but said that they would make more public sometime in 2020.