Sawdust burger: NoA Biosciences makes sustainable meat substitute from wood biomass

About NoA Biosciences

  • Founders: Gilles Amsallem, Koen Wentink and Carlo Cifiello
  • Founded in: 2019
  • Employees: –
  • Money raised: only used equity so far, raised first seed round
  • Ultimate goal: To offer an alternative meat replacement product that is sustainable, tasty and affordable. With this, we want to contribute to a solution to problems in the food supply.

Minced meat for your Bolognese sauce, which is made from sawdust, wood scraps and undergrowth in the forest. At NoA Biosciences, they want to solve problems in the food chain by converting wood biomass into food. No ingredients, but a complete end product that can be consumed in all possible ways: As a burger, in pasta sauce, on a pizza or in a dumpling.

“NoA means ‘no animal’ in French”, explains Koen Wentink, referring to the French founder of the start-up, Gilles Amsallem. Wentink is co-founder and CEO at the start-up and tells more about it in this section of today’s start-up.

First of all: why mushrooms?

“With woody biomass as starting material, the choice of mushrooms is a logical next step. They also grow on wood in the wild. And culinary experts all agree that mushroom-based products generally taste good.”

So you convert woody biomass into a meat substitute product. How do you do it?

“In short, we convert woody biomass into a substrate on which fungi grow. This biomass can be anything: sawdust, wood residues from wood processing companies or forest undergrowth. In any case, no trees must be cut down for our final product. These mushrooms are inoculated onto the substrate, grown and ultimately processed into a mushroom-based product that has roughly the same protein content as meat. We sell the end product as a fresh product to restaurants, caterers and ultimately the consumer.”

What do you do with the leftover product?

“The substrate that remains contains many nutrients. We recycle it as biofertilizer or insect feed. So we make food and feed from waste, without producing waste. Biomass can be bought cheaply and is sometimes even free. It keeps our product affordable. Everyone agrees that we should eat less meat, but then you have to have tasty and affordable alternatives.”

Where are you now?

“We are in the process of raising our first round of financing. With a few investors, we are now at a fairly advanced stage of negotiations. We hope to start the first pilot with them. It will take one to two years before our product is widely available. In the meantime, we are looking at how we can jumpstart development. For example, we will soon start developing recipes together with chefs and test the products in restaurants.”

Meat substitutes are hot. How do you differentiate yourself from the competition?

“We are not dependent on supply chain problems or climate impacts. For example, companies that use chickpeas for their meat substitute have recently had smaller harvests due to the drought. We are not bothered by that, we start with the biomass, with the raw materials themselves. Our production method also requires a lower investment compared to many of our competitors.”

Where do you want to be in five years?

“Our mission is to have sold one million tonnes of product in ten years. That is a big, ambitious figure. This means that in five years we will be producing commercially in Europe and America.”

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