Chile-based alt protein company NotCo announced today it has been granted a U.S. patent for its artificial intelligence (AI) tech.
NotCo, sometimes referred to as the Impossible or Beyond of Latin America, first launched its plant-based milk alternative, NotMilk, in the U.S. at the end of 2020. The company said it will soon open an office in NYC, and already has offices in San Francisco. The company also has U.S.-based retail deals with Sprouts, Wegmans, and online grocer Imperfect Foods.
The company makes a plant-based milk from pea protein. In Latin America, it also sells a plant-based mayo, a burger-like item, and ice cream in Brazil, Chile, and Argentina.
The company’s AI platform, named Giuseppe, sifts through huge datasets (for example, from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Agricultural Library), to find ingredient and processing combinations that would best mimic the elements (flavor, texture, etc.) of real meat or dairy in plant-based analogues. The idea, of course, is to find the types of combinations that can create a product that completely mimics traditional meat and dairy — a feat few if any plant-based protein-makers have yet to achieve.
From the patent:
A formula generator learns from open source and proprietary databases of ingredients and recipes. The formula generator is trained using features of the ingredients and using recipes. Given a target food item, the formula generator determines a formula that matches the given target food item and a score for the formula. The formula generator may generate numerous formulas that match the given target food item and may select an optimal formula from the generated formulas based on score.
NotCo said in today’s press release that the AI platform also looks for “unexpected plant combinations” that could also achieve the desired taste and texture of the real thing.
NotCo is not alone in this AI-based approach to plant-based proteins. Climax is another notable company in this space, and is currently crunching data sets to find the most appropriate ingredient combinations for plant-based cheese. In the wider food industry, Spoonshot uses AI to identify novel flavor combinations, and Brightseed leverages the tech to uncover phytonutrients in plants.
The company has raised a total of $120 million so far from a pool of investors that includes Jeff Bezos, Kaszek Ventures, and Maya Capital. It is also expanding to further international locations, including Colombia, Mexico, and Canada.