Project Fermeat began as a Masters thesis topic with around 40 kg of soy bean okara and a desire to find an alternative solution to current applications which include biogas fuel, animal feed and worst of all, disposal, for a material which carries a high nutritional value. The question raised was how could we better use this material which is produced world-wide in excess of 3,000,000 tonnes per year. The origins of our answer lie in Asian food culture, applying the fermentative power of the soybean tempeh mould Rhizopus oligosporus, used for centuries in the cuisine of many Pan-Asian countries. By treating and fermenting the okara in a process developed within the Berner Fachhochschule, we have successfully created a small range of okara-based food product formats that can be positioned in the meat-alternative market, displaying meat-like textures and an umami, savory flavor profile with a significant diversity for culinary application. As an alternative use for okara, some benefits include: reduced environmental burden, increased consumer choice in a rapidly growing vegan/vegetarian market, nutritionally as a product fibre and protein are in abundance, and finally there is potential to become a valued stakeholder in the soy processing supply chain. Thus, with the aid of Gebert Rüf Stiftung, the project goal is to further develop the concept and processes in their entireties and to subsequently initiate production at a small-scale commercial level.
What is special about the project?
The okara treatment and fermentation process developed is an exciting new alternative to current methods. The innovation itself surrounds imaginative use of already existing technologies and fermentation techniques. Fermentation is where the magic happens, the transformative powers of Rhizopus growth convert the okara from a fibrous, often gritty material into a flavoursome, textured, meat-like product with a wonderfully elegant simplicity. The potential for entry into the Swiss and European vegan/vegetarian/flexitarian markets is huge, though considering world-wide okara output, widespread implementation of our processes could impact hugely to reduce okara disposal whilst indirectly reducing the consumption of animal produce.
The necessary processes allowing for creation of the raw material at small-scale have been defined with several further increments of capacity scaling now visible. Subsequent scaling of operations that ready the raw material, converting into substrate, have been developed to accommodate the same throughput levels. Several fermentation chambers have been constructed, with good control of the fermentation process achieved and the speed of the fermentation processes improved. Regarding business and marketing efforts, early business plans and models have been generated, though still in progress relative to incoming feedback from a variety of expert sources. The product, which is called “Luya”, is available based on two different substrates and in several different formats. Official founding of the company Luya Foods AG is currently underway. Confirmed customer interest with many product tastings has already been conducted with many more to come (feedback incorporated directly into product development). The next steps for us are proof of concept and proof of market traction whilst simultaneously increasing our production capacity.
Persons involved in the project
Last update to this project presentation 17.01.2022