Food of the future: Can 3D-printed fish save our ocean?

08 June 2023 by Thaddeus Tan
blog author

​​The depletion of the world’s fish species could be prevented thanks to innovative technology that will satisfy seafood lovers’ appetites without hooking more fish from the ocean.

Two award-winning European startups have formed a partnership to showcase cutting-edge 3D printing innovation to help solve the fishing crisis, caused by overfishing, while ensuring there is a plentiful supply of seafood alternatives.

Austrian 3D and food tech firm Revo Foods has collaborated with Swedish fungi innovator Mycorena to ensure the future of seafood is climate-smart, nutritious and resource-efficient.

Revo Foods offers seafood created from 100 per cent plants, aiming at changing the way we consume fish products and protect the ocean. Its goals are to be fully plant-based, offer the best seafood alternatives and help reduce overfishing.

It has teamed up with Gothenburg-based Mycorena to take food innovation to the next level and effect positive change via state-of-the-art 3D food printing technology.

Mycorena uses next-generation fungi ingredients to reach its ambitious sustainability goals which include saving 20,000,000 farm animals, 513,000 tonnes of CO2, 290,000,000 tonnes of fresh water and 342,000 tonnes of food waste.

Recognized as one of the leading food tech firms in Europe, The pioneering Mycorena Fungi Lab focuses on creating protein of the future and is split into three divisions: fermentation lab, food lab and quality & analytical lab. The food lab focuses on texture analysis and 3D printing.

Alternatives to high-value fish fillets and whole-cut steak are proving a challenge to produce; hence attention is focusing on technology such as 3D food printing and the use of healthy vegan, fibrous alternatives such as mycoprotein. However, fibrous behavior can be limiting for processing methods such as 3D food printing.

Mycorena and Revo Foods are currently exploring the suitability of Mycorena’s previously developed and adapted mycoprotein which is better suited for 3D food printing. It partners the meat-like properties of mycoprotein with the unrestricted shaping possibilities of 3D food printing, to produce a new realistic meat-like product segment.

The companies are aiming to narrow the gap between animal products and plant-based or vegan alternatives, and encourage the wider adoption of meat alternatives in the market. Like Mycorena’s current mycoprotein ingredient Promyc, the printable mycoprotein will have a soft fibrous texture, light colour and neutral taste.

Vienna-based Revo Foods has previously claimed that its plant-based salmon contains more protein, omega-3 fatty acids, dietary fibres, and vitamin B12 than regular salmon.

According to researchers at Our World in Data, production of fish and seafood worldwide has increased four-fold over the past half-century. During this time the global population has more than doubled, with the average person eating twice as much seafood compared to 50 years ago.

This demand has put fish stocks under threat which are now caught faster than they can reproduce, meaning wild fish are not caught sustainably in their current volume.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) shows the fraction of fish stocks sustainably fished decreased to 64.6 per cent in 2019. This is just 1.2 per cent lower than in 2017, but a considerable drop from the 90 per cent reported in 1974.
Climate-conscious savvy consumers are demanding more plant-based alternatives from meat and seafood producers and holding companies to account for their impact on the planet.

According to Boston Consulting Group (BCG), 76 per cent of consumers are playing their part when it comes to sustainability and expect brands to do the same, although a mere eight per cent are willing to pay more for sustainable products and believe companies and governments should be paying for necessary changes to be implemented.

Ram Nair, Founder & CEO of Mycorena, said: "Finding next-generation food ingredients that are healthy, climate-friendly, and resource-efficient is necessary to achieve lasting positive change in our food system. Our vision is to build Mycorena into a global leader at the forefront of this change."

Robin Simsa, CEO at Revo Foods, said: “Mycoprotein is a very interesting ingredient for vegan seafood alternatives, however, we were previously limited in using it in our proprietary 3D food printing process as the fibrous behavior was altered.

“With this new collaboration with Mycorena, we see huge potential to develop the printable mycoprotein further, which can lift meat/seafood alternatives to the next quality level, necessary for large-scale consumer adoption.”
Kristina Karlsson, R&D Manager at Mycorena, said: “We are very excited to finally reveal our collaboration with Revo Foods. We believe we will create some truly unique products here, making it easy for consumers to enjoy delicious seafood in a healthy and sustainable way.”

Thaddeus Tan, Senior Consultant – Sustainable Business at Acre, said: “I am very eager to observe the growth of the meat alternative segment and its uptake among the public in the coming years. On a larger scope, the issue of unsustainable fishing practices will contribute to severe biodiversity challenges with the importance of key ecosystem services that the ocean provides.

“It is crucial not only for consumers but brands and governments to protect our biodiversity as approximately half or more of the global GDP (2020) is dependent on nature and its services. Nature-related disclosures have started to take importance such as Science Based Targets for Nature, Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD), and the EU Taxonomy which requires the private sector to be more accountable for nature-related risks and impacts.

“While these are positive steps forward, large institutions must be proactive in taking bigger and quicker strides in safeguarding our oceans and planet.”

World Ocean Day is on June 8, 2023. For more information, please visit https://worldoceanday.org/

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