New school meals said its muscle fiber and scaffolding technology to produce alternative seafood products is now at a point where it can be demonstrated and a pilot facility built. The company’s first product is a vegetable fillet that looks, cooks, tastes and flakes like wild salmon.
The announcement comes after the Toronto-based plant-based fish producer raised $12 million in seed funding. Participating investors include Lever VC, Blue Horizon Ventures, Hatch, Good Startup and Alwyn Capital. New School Foods also has grants from Canadian government agencies, including Sustainable Development Technology Canada and Protein Industries Canada. The company has now raised a total of $13 million.
The three-year-old company swims in waters that have become overcrowded in recent times as startups around the world venture into a market that is about to reach a value of $1.6 billion over the next 10 years.
Venture capital also flows into space – around $178 million in investments was in the first half of 2022. One of the largest venture capital investments in alternative seafood last year went to Wildtype, which raised $100 million in a Series B round for its farmed salmon product. Meanwhile, Plantish, Bluu Seafood and the ISH Company are also working on salmon alternatives.
“Seafood is a new piece of the tech puzzle right now,” Christopher Bryson, CEO of New School Foods, told businesskinda.com.
Find the technology
Bryson got involved in alternative seafood about five years ago after selling his company Unata, an e-commerce platform for major supermarkets, to Instacart. He set out to find his next “big thing,” eventually learning about factory farming and how animals were treated, which he described as “a life-changing event.”
“It seemed like not enough people were concerned about it,” he added.
Bryson explained that the startup ecosystem didn’t reward R&D, so because he didn’t have a product for investors to sample, he instead took the angel investor approach — looking at early technologies, especially those not yet used for alternative proteins .
While looking for research to invest in, he didn’t find much technology addressing whole portions of protein and very little focused on seafood. Bryson saw that high-moisture extrusion was commonly used, but found that the high heat used precooked the food, which didn’t provide the kind of texture and muscle fiber he was looking for.
“So we decided to develop a new technology that did not rely on high moisture extrusion and was better suited to whole cuts,” he added.
What New School Foods came up with is a patented muscle fiber and scaffolding platform for making full-fledged meat alternatives with the same colors, flavors, fats, texture and mouthfeel of traditional fish.
Rather than a high-temperature method, its technology relies on a series of cold-based processes to create a product that appears “raw” to begin with and when cooked flakes similar to traditional salmon.
“All of these cold steps in our process can use off-the-shelf equipment from neighboring industries that use freezing, but not for this purpose, and that’s really important because a lot of the stuff that’s trying to be an alternative to extrusion is pretty science fiction. , and there’s no scaled-up infrastructure,” Bryson said. “If we’re talking about feeding the world in a relatively short amount of time, by using off-the-shelf, scaled-up equipment that has a large volume can very quickly and reliably feed a very large number of people.”
Scaling up and production
Bryson plans to use the new funding to continue to focus on R&D; expanding the company’s team of about a dozen people, particularly in the food science field; scale up scaffolding technology; and build a research and production facility.
New School Foods broke ground with a Toronto facility last month and will unveil its plan for it in a few months, he said.
Meanwhile, the company plans to sell through restaurants and has started a chef-only pilot program in North America to establish a product council and also generate interest as the product gets ready for distribution later this year .
“In addition to building our salmon product and refining it with restaurants over the course of this year, we are also building our own production facilities,” Bryson said. “We also know that this technology has much more potential than salmon, so we don’t plan to stop there.”
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