Agtech, alternativeprotein

(Mush)room for Improvement? How Fungi is Disrupting the Food and Agri Tech Space (Newsletter #12)

(Estimated reading time: 5 Minutes)

Why Mushrooms?

We are confident that fungi is one of the most underrated products in in agriculture. For centuries, fungi has been used to formulate some of the most fundamental items for human health and consumption. From penicillin to protein and packaging, fungi stands poised to disrupt the food and ag-tech space in 2018.

At the turn of the 21st century, fungi were involved in the industrial processing of more than half of the most profitable products used in human medicine. Beyond this, fungus-based yeasts are crucial for food processes that some of our favourite foods and beverages – beer, wine and bread. Today, researchers are working on creating building materials, medicine, cleaning products, textiles, biofuels, packaging and countless other products from fungi.

In this newsletter, we explore some of the innovative ways fungi is being used to disrupt the food, beverage, and plant-based protein industries, and beyond the realm of the edible- fungi is being used in biomaterials that exercise our imaginations and offer a preview of what a sustainable future might look like.

The Market

  • The global plant-based protein market is expected to reach $11bn by 2022
  • The global mushroom market is expected to reach above $60bn by 2021
  • The global biomaterials market is projected to reach $150 by 2021
  • The global biodegradable packaging market is projected to reach over $19bn by 2025

Fungi as a rich protein source

Fungi is taking the plant-based protein industry by storm. Where plant-based diets have typically relied on complementary food combinations to meet nutritional requirements, start-ups have found ways to produce complete protein sources from the humble mushroom that rival their meat counterparts. For example, Connecticut-based Quorn Foods Inc has patented its fungi-based complete protein, Mycoprotein. This protein exhibits a meat-like texture which is used to make a range of meat substitute frozen foods that are low in fat and saturates and contain no cholesterol or trans-fats.

Fungi as a functional ingredient

Going deeper into edibles, fungi is also entering the functional ingredient market as a flavour modulator to make food more palatable, replacing the need for unhealthy masking agents such as sugar that have traditionally served this purpose. Colorado-based MycoTechnology Inc is disrupting the sugar and sweetener industries with its two products, ClearTaste, a bitter blocker, and PureTaste, a shiitake-based protein with a complete amino acid profile. ClearTaste is suitable to be added to a range of products from chocolate and coffee to alcohol- modulating bitterness, sourness and astringency with a neutral taste and aroma, while PureTaste offers a non-GMO, vegan protein source. Taking only sixty hours from harvest to culture, PureTaste is potentially one of the most sustainable protein sources, and was also crowned as the highest density protein ever created with fungi at 60% of its weight. 

Fungi in packaging

The uses of fungi go far beyond edibles- it is now being used to create biomaterials that are literally grown, harnessing the incredible power of nature with minimal inputs. Can mushrooms replace plastic? New York-based Ecovative Design is giving conventional synthetics a run for their money. Using agricultural waste and mycelium (fungus roots) as the primary inputs, Ecovative has created a Styrofoam alternative, MycoFoam, that is fully biodegradable, and MycoBoard for wall tiles and particleboards and other furniture applications. Ecovative’s 100% organic and patented biomaterials are customisable to be water, fire and mould-resistant, and can be moulded in any shape or size. Rigorous testing has even shown that MycoFoam has a consistency stronger than concrete when compared pound for pound. Moreover, they are highly durable, lightweight and flame-retardant. Ecovative is experimenting with living building materials- and even toying with the idea of self-repairing walls.

To see how such packaging can look like just follow the link here (video about the Ecovative’s packaging)


With applications along an ever-increasing spectrum from edibles to building materials, fungal products represen an underrated ingredient in the food and agtech space. 2018 will prove to be a disruptive year for new fungi-based products and ingredients.


Our newsletters are based on our research and analysis.
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Don’t miss out on any of the upcoming newsletters:

–>  FOOD & AGRI TECH Newsletter.

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