The increasing demand for meat analogues asks for alternative production technology of plant-based food sources. Current extrusion-based structuring of plant proteins is energy-intensive and limited in material selection, structuring ability, and food design. As an alternative pathway, we propose to grow fungi directly in pre-designed food substrates and thus mimic the fiber-like structure and taste of meat. Guidance for the directed growth of fungi is provided by the templated anisotropic 3D host substrate, which provides beneficial mechanical properties, nutrients, and architecture for fungal growth. By designing a 3D matrix to direct mycelium growth, we aim to achieve anisotropy spanning over several length scales, crafting a meat analogue with unprecedented micro and macroscopic fibers that interconnect the entire food product. This approach will demonstrate how biological structuring through growth can be used as a structuring tool while providing general design concepts for plant-based foods.
One of the first milestone goals of this project involved the screening of potential fungal species as well as examination of various substrate and nutrient conditions to promote fungal growth. The screening procedure was thorough and time-consuming, but it turned out to be crucial in laying the groundwork for this research. We have now defined 2 fast-growing fungi for our research, with which we will carry out the further experiments.
Further, we sought to identify influencing factors that are suited for directing the mycelium’s growth by an extensive literature review. Results from studying these factors will give us valuable information for the design of the 3-D matrix for anisotropic mycelium growth. Moreover, a method was developed to process substrate material to printable inks that can be extruded via a 3-D bioprinter to design a 3-D matrix of desired shape/size for fungal proliferation.
Meat alternatives are already widely produced via extrusion or laboratory grown meat. The taste and texture demand of meat consumers are often not met by current alternatives like tofu and seitan. While textured plant proteins produced via extrusion are nicely structured, they require costly and high pre-processing of the raw material. Further, designing meat like structures via laboratory grown meat still presents a challenge. This project intends to fill this gap by providing a crucial research foundation for the production of meat-like structures from fungal mycelium, a novel method that not only produces tastes similar to meat but also fiber-like structures. To do so, the project is in close collaboration with food start-up Planted Foods AG , which produces meat analogues.
By further exploring the biochemical toolbox of fungal mycelium – substrate relationship we aim to closely link thickness and density of mycelia formation in the food product. To do this, we'll delve deeper into the impact of established influencing factors and search for more strategies and variables that will let us guide the direction of fungal development. By fine-tuning the substrate’s viscoelasticity, porosity, directionality, and nutrient gradients, we aim to understand, control, and direct fungal growth towards heterogeneous food products.
Persons involved in the project
Last update to this project presentation 24.01.2023