Spanish foodtech start-up Innomy has raised €1.3 million to commercialise its mushroom-derived meat substitute.
Innomy uses fermented mushroom cultures to produce substitute meat products that are low carbon, high protein and cholesterol-free.
The current food system accounts for around a third of global greenhouse gas emissions, and risks falling by 7% in value by 2030 unless it transforms to keep up with the changing climate.
Spain’s agricultural legacy has contributed to the rapid growth of its foodtech sector, and we should expect to see similar hotspots of innovative activity emerge as different markets begin shifting towards more sustainable growth.
The Bilbao-based start-up will use its latest investment to scale up its technology and commercialise its products. Its meat substitute is derived from Mycelium, a protein-rich ingredient extracted from mushroom roots, which is cultured, fermented and harvested before being formed into saleable products.
Innomy claims that its technology can produce up to 2 kg of ‘meat’ per kilo of substrate used, while generating far fewer CO2 emissions than conventional livestock farming.
CEO and founder Juan Pablo de Giacomi said, “we were born as a platform to channel many years of research in the field of the properties of edible mushrooms. Our mission is to respond to consumers that demand good food products for their health but also for the planet’s wellbeing. We want to reach new markets and bring our product to thousands of people”.
Transforming the global food system
Intensive agriculture is widely acknowledged to have devastating impacts on our planet, with the overall food system overall accounting for around a third of global greenhouse gas emissions. It fuels deforestation and land-use change, reduces soil health, and is considered the most significant threat to at least 86% of species at risk of extinction.
According to the UN-backed Race to Zero campaign, a business-as-usual continuation of current food and agricultural activities would result in the sector losing up to 7% of its value by 2030.
Evidently, the global food system is in need of a complete transformation if we are to have any hope of achieving the 1.5°C target established by the 2015 Paris Agreement.
The emergence of Spanish foodtech
This need for transformation poses a significant challenge to countries such as Spain, where food and agriculture form a sizeable component of the national economy. The sector’s direct contributions make up 2.9% of Spain’s gross value added, rising to 7.3% when including indirect contributions.
The country’s food economy, however, is unusually fragmented, with almost 80% of its companies having fewer than 10 employees. This landscape of small businesses is well-positioned for innovation, as has been demonstrated by the foodtech industry’s rapid growth during the early 2020s.
Spain currently has around 400 start-ups working within the broader food sector, with technological advances and intellectual property considered crucial to their competitive development. Indeed, a 2021 report from Invest in Spain reveals that investment in Spanish foodtech start-ups reached €695 million in 2021, triple the amount raised in 2020.
Government agencies supporting foodtech
This growth has been facilitated by supportive policies on both a national and regional level, such as the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food’s €62 million budget to be spent on digitalising the agri-food sector by 2023, and the €36.5 million budget of the Centre for the Development of Industrial Technology’s NEOTEC programme.
Government agencies have also improved their collaboration with other actors, including national technology centres, industrial partners and Universities. These collaborative efforts have supported Spain’s rapid development of technologies for producing alternative proteins, a growing market both regionally and within the EU as a whole.
The accumulation of favourable policy conditions, technological innovation and market demand has resulted in increased interest from international investors, suggesting that Spain’s foodtech sector will only continue to grow.
Indeed, Innomy is one of three Spanish foodtech start-ups to have announced its first funding round following its completion of a dedicated accelerator programme.
Others supported by the Eatable Adventures programme include Cocuus, which raised €2.5 million to develop its 3D printing technologies for the production of alternative proteins, and Moa Foodtech, which secured €1.5 million to make meat substitutes from plant-based food waste and by-products of agricultural production.
Spain’s foodtech sector is clearly well-positioned for rapid growth, and could be further supported as new frameworks are developed to support investors in assessing the risks and opportunities of the alternative protein market.
As the global economy seeks to transition towards net zero, we should expect similar hotspots of innovative activity to emerge as national, regional and local industries realise the importance of keeping up with rapid shifts in their market.