New Covent Garden Market-based Better Nature has secured £350k of funding through Innovate UK to develop all-natural plant-based fish made using food by-products.
Better Nature is a food-tech company innovating with 300-year old Indonesian food tempeh (a high-protein plant-based food made by fermenting soybeans) and is building on its proprietary fermentation methods inspired by tempeh. The company is aiming to create the first animal-free fish analogue that is physically, visually, nutritionally, and sensorially equivalent, if not superior, to fish.
Using a newly developed and proprietary method, Better Nature will apply tempeh fermentation on food industry by-products to obtain a plant-based fish with optimised taste and texture.
“While demand for animal protein is increasing, 90% of the world's marine fish stocks are depleted,” said Driando Ahnan-Winarno, co-founder and Chief Technology Officer at Better Nature, who is leading the project along with fellow co-founder and Chief Operating Officer Fabio Rinaldo. “The chances of a meaningful transition to more sustainable, plant-based alternatives to fish are hampered by technical barriers in replicating its structure, taste, and nutrition.
“Tempeh fermentation, combined with co-inoculation and natural encapsulation techniques, tackles just this. At Better Nature, we want to address this gap through an appealing and affordable fish analogue, made using all-natural and sustainable sources.”
The team at Better Nature are not the only people thinking about plant-based fish. With the global plant-based seafood market predicted to soar to $1.3 billion by 2031, accelerated by Netflix documentary Seaspiracy, plant-based fish and seafood are set to be in high demand. The United States has shown the most interest in vegan seafood, with a 100% increase over the last year with Australia and the UK not too far behind, with 83% and 45% increases respectively.
Better Nature will be supported on the project by award-winning fermentation companies across Europe, including Nucaps Nanotechnology, S.L. and Neoalgae Micro Seaweeds Products in Spain and the Centre of Food and Fermentation Technologies in Estonia. The project will run until 2024 and Better Nature aims to commercialise its plant-based fish alternative in European markets by 2026.
Since launching in 2020, Better Nature has already developed a tempeh range including Organic Tempeh, Smoky Tempeh Rashers and BBQ Tempeh Strips. The whole range has earned a top rating for its low carbon footprint and Better Nature offsets double the carbon and plastic used to make the tempeh, making it Carbon and Plastic Negative. Better Nature also donates 1% of its sales to the 1000 Days Fund, to improve the wellbeing of families in Indonesia, the home of tempeh.
Pictured: Part of the team working on the project, headed by Driando Ahnan-Winarno and Fabio Rinaldo (far left and second from left) at the Centre of Food and Fermentation Technologies in Estonia.