Motif FoodWorks has a new home.
The company announced today that they have moved into a new 10,600 square foot facility in the Boston Seaport area, sharing a building with the company it spun out of last year, bioengineering platform company Ginkgo Bioworks. The new building includes labs, testing kitchens, and a new office space for its leadership team.
According to Motif CEO Jonathan McIntyre, the move is critically important to the company as it finally gives them their own in-house facilities for the first time, which will accelerate R&D and expand their in-house capabilities to better understand the properties of new plant-based food ingredients.
Up until now, Motif “didn’t have anything, we were a virtual company,” McIntyre told The Spoon. The new building’s “labs are designed for us to analyze food so we understand the kinds of ingredients and processes we need to make it taste better. It helps us discover new ingredients and characterize those new ingredients. And because we have kitchens here, put those into full food forms, and be able to design those foods with the new ingredients, test them, and bring them to consumer.”
Before the move, the company had to rent space at commercial research and university labs to get the work done. Now Motif has their own labs, fermentation tanks, and testing kitchens to help them build ingredient building blocks using the engineered microbes from Ginkgo.
Speaking of Ginkgo, I asked McIntyre why they couldn’t leverage the infrastructure of the company they were born out of and he made it clear that while they do take advantage of Ginkgo’s capabilities when necessary, the type of work the two companies do is fundamentally different.
“Their labs don’t really fit what we do,” said McIntyre. Ginkgo labs “are foundries of DNA synthesis and a bunch of other things. There is a transition between them generating a microbe that is been designed to produce a very specific product that gets transferred to us. In our labs, we have fermenters that grow microbes, allow microbes to produce the products, and then we are able to separate those from the bacteria and start working on those as food ingredients”
McIntyre also made it clear that while the new facilities will help them move towards scaling the production of their ingredients, the new building did not come with in-house pilot production plants. However, he doesn’t rule that out in the future.
“Eventually we’ll be doing more engineering process research, like how do we scale up the production of these things. That will require us to get pilot facilities. We’ll be renting them for a while, and then eventually, probably building our own.”
For now however, McIntyre and the company are just happy to have their own facility, even if it might be a while before everyone can be together.
With COVID, “we’re being extra extra careful about who can come in and how they get come in,” said McIntyre. “We limit the number of non-R&D people here, and even the R&D people only come in when they’re doing experiments in the lab.”