by Mark Edwards | If you missed part 1, click here.
Brevel’s scalable technology is the first to combine sugar-based algae fermentation, above, with a high light concentration. Their innovative technology results in proteins price competitive with pea and soy and is color and flavor neutral.
Brevel’s mildly flavored proteins solve the immediate challenge in plant-based dairy and egg products that lack a valuable nutritional profile.
The company wants to become the #1 choice for plant-based protein worldwide. Focusing on food applications, including plant-based dairy, eggs, fish, and seafood, the protein comes as a dry powder which can be added directly to formulations. Partners can incorporate it in different forms, such as homogenization, secondary fermentation, etc. to increase its solubility or to extract additional flavors.
Brevel claims to be the first company able to combine sugar-based fermentation and light in a single process. They produce affordable microalgae at very high yields which are rich with all the functionalities, ingredients and nutrients that are only produced in the presence of light. They are now building the first commercial factory in Israel, capable of producing 120 tons of protein annually, due to be completed in 2022.
Their technology is based on high-tech indoor, sterile, automated systems which are illuminated from within at high intensity. The unique process enables the production of nutrient-rich microalgae at a cost reduction, they say, of more than 90%.
Avoidance of allergens and contaminants
Currently, alternative protein sources are neither sustainable nor affordable. The leading protein sources, soy and pea, have very strong flavors. They also commonly cause allergic reactions, especially in children.
Soy, wheat, milk, and nuts are considered “major food allergens” and are required by U.S. law to be listed as an allergen on the product label.
Land-based plant proteins also suffer from considerable contaminants. For example, more than 70% of non-organic fresh produce sold in the U.S. contains residues of potentially harmful pesticides, in addition to dust, mites and insect parts.
Available amino acids determine protein quality. Food grains are deficient of one or more essential amino acids, especially lysine, threonine, leucine, and histidine. Lack of essential amino acids severely diminishes the protein value in food. Brevel’s algae protein delivers a full amino acid profile.
The body only benefits from nutrients assimilated as they pass through the gut. Algae cells are typically 10 times smaller than land-based crop cells. Tiny cells create exponentially larger surface area, which correlates directly with significantly higher bioavailability compared with food grains. The company’s product offers very high digestibility scores.
Algae offer the most sustainable source of protein on our planet. Compared to food grains, the major source of dietary protein, algae are 99.95% more efficient in terms of land, 95% more efficient in GHG emissions, and 92% more efficient in freshwater consumption. The algae in Brevel’s biosystems do not require any pesticides or herbicides and no chemical runaways.
Achieving cost parity with existing protein sources
Brevel realizes that flavor and avoidance of allergens and contaminants are insufficient for their business case. They must operate at cost parity with existing protein sources. They have designed their mixotrophic technology to meet the speed and scale required to be cost-competitive with terrestrial food grains.
The graphic below indicates expected cost parity for plant-based proteins with conventional animal-based protein that should occur in 2023. Microorganism cost parity with alternative proteins with good taste and texture should occur in 2025.
Resolving micronutrient deficiencies
Brevel does not want to become another niche alternative protein source. The company focuses on the broad market of healthier alternative protein, which needs to be nutrient dense. Healthy protein must deliver with the full spectrum of macro- and micronutrients besides protein. Pea and soy protein are not nutrient dense and do not provide a diversity of nutrients beyond protein. These sources are so nutrient deficient that over two billion people worldwide suffer from micronutrient deficiencies, including nearly 85% of Americans. Micronutrient inadequacies create symptoms of fatigue and reduced ability to fight infections. Symptoms also include impaired cognitive function, such as attention, as well as memory, and mood.
Lack of cognitive function puts a huge drag on schools and leads to high dropout rates with all the associated social costs. Micronutrient deficiencies severely impact long-term health. They create increased risk for chronic diseases like cancer, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, and eye diseases. Healthy protein with the full set of micronutrients can end micronutrient deficiencies within a few weeks.
Micronutrient deficiencies in pregnant mothers often result in pre-term births — which can cause birth defects, developmental disabilities, mental retardation, reduced immunity, blindness, poor learning, and premature death. The 380,000 premature births in the U.S., 1 in 10 births, is higher than any other wealthy country and resembles sub-Saharan Africa. Pre-term birth is the most frequent cause of infant death and disability and costs the healthcare system $26 billion a year. Resolving micronutrient deficiencies could reduce premature births to >75%.
Brevel has raised $8.4M in a seed funding round. The funds are invested in a commercial factory which will serve as the basis for scaling Brevel’s proprietary technology and enhancing R&D capabilities. The alternative-protein’s dedicated investors include FoodHack, Good Startup VC, Tet Ventures and Nevateam Ventures among others from the food tech industry. The round also includes significant funding from the EU’s prestigious program Horizon2020 and Israel’s Innovation Authority.
Brevel may be the first company to break the speed, scale, cost, and flavor codes for microalgae as fundamental human food. Please stay tuned.
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