Mushrooms instead of animals

New approaches to plant-based nutrition: produces basic ingredients for the food industry from filamentous fungi. This makes it possible to replace many animal ingredients without sacrificing taste and consistency.

The growing importance of a diet with less or no meat is important to many consumers. This is confirmed by surveys in which at least every second German expresses this wish. Even though the actual number may be somewhat lower, it is still sufficient to spur the food industry on to further innovations. The market already offers numerous products that do without animal ingredients, from burger patties to egg substitutes to ice cream. Nevertheless, these alternatives have not yet fully gained a foothold in the mass market. Often the texture and mouthfeel take some getting used to, and achieving taste and consistency often requires the use of a long list of additives. And last but not least, these alternatives are usually more expensive. GmbH is one of the companies that want to bring about change here. The start-up from Adlershof relies on filamentous fungi, whose proteins serve as raw materials for food manufacturers. "This means that various chemicals can be saved in vegan burger patties, for example, which give the patty shape and support," explains founder Tim Fronzek. The fungal proteins act like a natural glue that holds the mass together and gives a pleasant mouthfeel, as tests with potential customers and experts have shown...

What is special about the filamentous fungus

This type of fungus cannot form harmful mycotoxins and has already been approved by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) as a food. therefore saves itself the lengthy and costly approval procedures that other companies in the novel food sector have to go through.

The team, currently consisting of eight employees in Adlershof and cooperation partners from the Technical University of Copenhagen in Denmark and the University of Guelph in Canada, is developing technologies for extracting and processing the fungal proteins. The filamentous fungi are cultivated in glass containers filled with water. "We add maltose extract as a carbon supplier," says Fronzek In the future, waste such as washing water from potato processing will also be used to further improve the environmental balance. After 24 to 48 hours, the mushrooms are large enough to be harvested. They are then left to drain on cotton cloths before further processing begins.

Fronzek switched from his position as founder and long-time managing director at Rebuy, a retailer of used electronics, to mushrooms and meat substitutes. "It's only logical," says the entrepreneur. He felt the desire to venture into something new, especially something with strong potential for climate protection. "18 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions are related to factory farming," he explains. The conditions for animals and workers in this industry are often problematic. That is why he himself has given up meat for years and wants to make the transition easier for others.

13-fold higher effect for the climate

"An analysis by the Boston Consulting Group has shown: Every euro invested in alternative proteins has a 13-fold higher effect on the climate than the same investment in electric mobility," says Fronzek. He teamed up with Felipe Lino, a Brazilian bioscientist, founded in 2022 and recently raised 3.2 million euros in capital.

This capital is to flow into improving the technology - also with regard to a more efficient use of energy. This is because the biotechnological production of food often requires considerable amounts of heat. The filamentous fungi, on the other hand, thrive at room temperature. The heat they give off during growth is to be used for further processing steps, Fronzek says.

"In the second half of the year, we want to be ready to enter into product development with partners from the food industry," he says. However, it is impossible to predict exactly when the first products with proteins from filamentous fungi will be on the shelves. "We hope it will be as soon as possible."

Merging tradition and innovation

The fusion of established, traditional companies, a dynamic start-up scene and renowned research institutions creates optimal conditions for industrial companies looking for an innovative environment. Within the industrial sector, the spectrum spans various areas such as Industry 4.0, additive manufacturing, the electrical industry, mechanical and plant engineering, plastics, chemicals, metal processing and food. Companies in these "classic" industrial sectors play a significant role in the emergence of cutting-edge technologies and foster networked supplier relationships within the capital region.

For more information on the economic development of the growth industries in the region and on economic and technology support for companies, investors and scientific institutions, please contact:

Melanie Gartzke I melanie.gartzke(at)


Source: Adlershof Journal, July/August 2023 issue, article "Mushrooms instead of animals. produces basic materials for the food industry from filamentous fungi", author Ralf Nestler, July 6, 2023