A Note from Ecovative’s CEO
Introducing Atlast Food Co, Ecovative’s New Company Devoted to Growing the Future of Plant-Based Meat
NOTE: This blog post was initially written September 5, 2019 and contains information that may be out of date. Atlast Food Co. has rebranded to MyForest Foods.
I am excited to announce today the creation of an entirely new company dedicated to the future of animal-free meat: Atlast Food Co.
Over the last year, we have been quietly working on prototypes of new food products leveraging Ecovative’s mycelium foundry and have been extremely encouraged by the results and feedback from trusted partners and the handful of global brands we’ve shared them with.
Changing the way humans eat meat is something that is both urgent and extremely important. So we have made the decision to spin out an entirely new company fully dedicated to developing the best structures to replicate the texture and feel of whole cuts of meat such as steak and chicken.
The creation of Atlast Food Co. allows us to recruit a purpose built team that can fully devote its efforts to the productization opportunities we see in the plant based meat sector while also aligning the right strategic and capital partners with this goal. Ecovative will continue to focus its efforts on developing its Mycelium Foundry, while Atlast Food Co. will be devoted to food specific product development, regulatory approval, and scale up.
“HOW WOULD YOU MAKE A PLANT-BASED STEAK?”
The Atlast™ Food Platform grew out of a simple thought experiment: “How would you make a plant based steak?”
Through advances in food science we can already mimic many of the flavors found in beef. These techniques have been enhanced by bio-tech breakthroughs that allow labs to ferment the small molecules that give meat its meaty flavor — molecules like iron-rich heme.
This has ushered in the era of plant based burgers. But ground meat was created to make the parts of an animal you wouldn’t want to eat on their own palatable. By far, the most valuable parts of an animal (82% by value), and the biggest impact in terms of changing consumption (75% by volume) are whole cuts of meat.
The answer to growing a steak, it turns out, comes down to structure. This intricate and delicate arrangement of muscle fibers and protein is what gives a rib-eye its desire or a chicken breast its universal appeal.
But structure has been a challenge since the first veggie burgers appeared in the 1970s: processed food tends to taste processed.
MUSHROOMS MIMIC THE STRUCTURE OF MEAT
Our core insight is that conventional food processing technologies can’t mimic the structure of meat. And neither can most plants. But certain mushrooms, when grown in a precise manner using the patented Atlast™ Food Platform, show promise of delivering that critical meat-like texture. (This fact shouldn't be surprising given that certain hard to cultivate wild mushrooms have long been recognized as convincing meat substitutes.)
So about a year ago we started on our journey to grow a plant-based steak. Or, more accurately, a myco-based steak. But more broadly, we started a journey to provide the many innovators and creators in the space with the missing ingredient needed to produce every type of whole cut meat from steak, to chicken breast, to crispy bacon.
And while our problem identification started with plant-based meats, we soon realized that the cell-based meat industry was facing similar challenges. Structure was an elusive challenge in the cultured meat sector. And so we began Beta testing Atlast™ CellScaffold for this market as well.
While our core work at Ecovative is around the Mycelium, and we have been hard at work building Mycelium Foundry One, our philosophy around market exploration has a big emphasis on prototyping and rapid product development.
With this driving us, we started creating bacon samples in the company kitchen last fall, using the strains we developed for our mycelium textiles. We worked with food scientists and food labs to iterate on various recipes. These early samples proved that mycelium can produce whole cut organic structure - but almost too well! The organisms - previously optimized to replicate the properties of structural materials - were too tough.
So we began prospecting for new strains -- both with other textures and fiber orientations, but also to align with GRaS specifications (significantly reducing the challenge of regulatory approval.) By the spring of ’19 we had onboarded our first edible gourmet mycelium species into the Atlast™ Food Platform and were starting to get excited about our weekly kitchen adventures. Over the summer our convictions around the problems facing the industry grew, as did our internal success. We hired a chef and recruited our first in-house food scientist.
At this point, it became clear we would want to put together a focused team around this opportunity, so the current team at Ecovative can fully devote their efforts to building Mycelium Foundry One.
This brings us to Good Food Conference — where we are updating on our product progress as an ingredient for both plant and cell based meat— as well as starting to recruit a team and capital for Atlast™ Food Co.
THE BIGGER PICTURE
At Ecovative, our mission is creating next generation materials through mycelium biofabrication.. We do this by influencing how mycelium grows and the micron level structures it forms. Our ultimate goal is to build a universal molecular assembly platform. Our work around specific applications, so far in replacing styrofoam packaging, creating animal free leather, and now scaffolding for food, mark important waypoints along this journey. I am looking forward to this exciting new chapter and hope that the investors, industry partners, foodies and scientists reading this will email me directly with new ideas to usher in this new era of food.