On Monday, January 22nd, IndieBio held its consumer biotechnology showcase, during which four biotech startups pitched and demoed their respective products. One of those four companies was Terramino Foods (now primeroots), a startup focused on creating alternatives to seafood using fungi and algae. The founders of Terramino Foods, Kimberlie Le and Joshua Nixon, are both the University of California, Berkeley alumni and graduates of the Alternative Meat Lab here at SCET.
Since graduating from Berkeley, Kimberlie and Josh have formed Terramino Foods, which was one of fourteen biotech startups accepted into IndieBio, a startup accelerator that provides $250,000 in seed funding, lab and workspace, and mentorship for four months. Because the accelerator program is only four months long, Kimberlie said that it has been a challenging process, “One semester at Cal I took 38 units, and this [IndieBio] is harder than that.” Simply put, IndieBio takes scientists and turns them into entrepreneurs. At the showcase on Monday, Kimberlie illustrated Terramino’s goal: to revolutionize protein consumption.
Globally, protein consumption is increasing rapidly. To be more specific, seafood consumption is increasing. Currently, 67% of protein consumption in humans is from seafood sources. However, the alternative meat market does not reflect that seafood consumption, which has had a large environmental impact, as we consume fish faster than they can reproduce.That is where Terramino Foods comes in. By reverse engineering what animal products taste like, Terramino Foods has created an alternative to seafood that tastes like and has the same nutritional value as fish. Kimberlie and Josh have even managed to retain the flaky structure of fish in their seafood alternative.
The basis of Terramino Foods’ product is fungi. The fungi is put through a fermentation process, which results in a relatively flavorless, protein-dense product. This product is then flavored and colored with algae, which is what gives fish its distinctive taste. Terramino Foods’ first product line is a salmon-based product line that currently includes a salmon burger and will soon feature a fish filet. In the next six months, Terramino Foods will be scaling its production up and plans on selling its product to restaurants by the end of 2018.
After all of the teams had pitched their products, there was time to mingle with each team and ask them questions about their specific products. Terramino Foods’ specified area was particularly packed, as they had set out samples of their “salmon” product, which, to my pleasant surprise, tasted exactly like salmon.