Lemna in the limelight: is this tiny aquatic plant the future of sustainable food?

Lemna in the limelight: is this tiny aquatic plant the future of sustainable food?

By
Louise Burfitt
September 28, 2021

🌱 What is it?

  • Have you ever noticed that creeping green film that can sometimes cover ponds, lakes and still bodies of freshwater? Meet lemna - also known as duckweed or the water lentil. 
  • This miniscule aquatic plant forms sprawling green carpets on freshwater, cutting off the supply of oxygen to the plants and animals living beneath the surface.
  • But while lemna is considered a headache in those circumstances, it might actually be something of a gift to the food industry when grown in a controlled environment… 

🤔 Tell me more…

  • How so? Well, lemna is incredibly rich in protein and grows at an extraordinarily speedy pace, making it ideal for mass-scale production.  
  • What’s more, this microalgae is easier for humans to digest than soy or pea protein and has a neutral, slightly nutty flavour and colour, so has the potential to be used in a wide variety of food applications. 

📈 The figures

  • The worldwide algae protein market size was already worth $690.8m in 2018, and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 6.71% to 2025
  • North America is the largest market at present, but Europe is catching up thanks to the growth of marine aquaculture in Scandinavia.

🤷‍♂️ Why?

  • If you’ve never heard of lemna, then you’re far from alone. This underrated, little-known microalgae has the potential to be an alternative source of plant protein given its high levels of the muscle-building element. This could fuel consumers’ rising demand for high-protein foods, and help in the hunt for a sustainable source to feed the hungry world population. 
  • Health-conscious millennials and Gen-Zers are looking to functional foods as a convenient way to get their nutrients. Lemna, like other microalgae, is crammed full of vitamins and contains all the essential amino acids, so it should resonate with those looking for more nutritious choices.
  • Lemna is also good for the environment as it’s grown in ponds, no agricultural land is needed and no soil is eroded in the process. It is very water-efficient. With well over half of the world’s population projected to live in cities by 2050, innovative food growing systems that require little land will be vital to ensure food security - and microalgae like lemna could well be part of the solution. 

🔍 How is it shaping up?

  • One of the reasons lemna has the potential to become a food industry wunderkind is because it’s so rich in protein, made up of about 25-45% protein depending on the variety. 
  • Some companies are processing the plant into protein powders for this reason, including Rubisco Foods in the Netherlands and Hinoman in Israel. Then there’s US-based Parabel who’s flagship product Lentein is a powder which is higher in essential amino acids than soy. 
  • Many companies see potential in lemna as a plant-based protein to rival soy and pea proteins - easier on the environment and with added nutritional value. Aquible in California are busy developing their B2B plant-based protein, similar to AdGreen in Thailand and microTERRA in Mexico. 
  • Of course, nutrition isn’t the only important factor when it comes to manufacturing and selling food. Taste and texture are important to consumers, particularly where plant-based alternatives are concerned. Here, the little water lentil excels too: it’s neutral in taste, so is well-suited to mimicking other products like milk (Parabel Foods) and egg whites (Plantible Foods). 

👀 Who? (9 companies in this space)

  • AdGreen (plant-based protein from lemna, Thailand)
  • Ajinomoto (lemna food ingredient, Japan) 
  • Aquible (B2B plant protein made from lemna, USA)
  • DryGro (lemna as a sustainable animal feed alternative to soy, UK)
  • Hinoman Ltd. (dried whole plant lemna powder, Israel) 
  • microTERRA (functional lemna-based plant-based protein, Mexico)
  • Parabel (lemna-based food ingredient ‘Lentein’, USA)
  • Plantible Foods (duckweed food ingredient, USA)
  • Rubisco Foods (lemna-based plant protein and protein powder, Netherlands)

 ​​💦 Case study: Plantible Foods

  • Plantible Foods is a B2B food technology startup developing plant-based proteins with the help of lemna. 
  • The plan is to launch its lemna-based ingredient - known as Rubi Protein - in 2022. 
  • This functional ingredient is so named because it is rich in the enzyme RuBisCO, which Plantible extracts from the lemna it manufactures en masse. 
  • And Plantible is aiming high, with plans to ‘revolutionise the food system’ - the food-tech company claims its lemna production process is 400 times more protein-efficient than pea production, and a whopping 50,000 times more protein-efficient than manufacturing beef. 
  • Only founded in 2018, the company already has $32.6m in the bank (including investment from Kellogg’s), and just closed a Series A funding round having bagged $21.5 million
  • The money will help the brand to increase its production capacity even further, having already scaled up its facilities by a factor of 150 at their 8,000m2 pilot factory, in preparation for launching its product commercially. 
  • Interest has been high, with more than 50 companies testing Rubi Protein, including in plant-based meat and dairy, baked goods and protein powders. 

🇯🇵 Case study: Ajinomoto x Hinoman 

  • Ajinomoto is a leading Japanese ingredients company, specialising in food products and amino acids. In 2017, they bought exclusive sales rights to Mankai, a variety of lemna, by investing in Israeli company Hinoman
  • The master plan is to establish a new line of business by promoting the development and sale of processed foods using lemna and the sale of Mankai as a functional ingredient for the food industry. 
  • Mankai - which is simply a type of lemna by another name - is 45% protein and contains vitamins, minerals, unsaturated fatty acids such as omega-3 fatty acids and dietary fiber. 
  • Grown in a short period of time with relatively little water, light and fertilisers, Mankai can be produced efficiently without negatively impacting the planet.
  • And in July 2021, these plans came to fruition when Ajinomoto released MankaiⓇ a next-gen vegetable drink full of nutrients and vitamins, and made almost entirely from lemna. 

👍 The good

  • Lemna has many benefits: it’s good for the environment, good for health, and packed with protein and amino acids. 
  • Its nutritional benefits make it a great possibility for adding functional benefits to food products, while its neutral flavour and texture mean it has potential as a vegan alternative to eggs and milk. 
  • It’s also very sustainable: it grows rapidly, is 10 times more water-efficient than other crops and is grown in a closed system, so can be cultivated in all seasons as a result.

👎 The bad

  • Although sustainability is hot right now, algae may have an image problem. Floating green pond weeds aren’t exactly sexy, which may put hotshot investors - and consumers - off. Education and awareness-raising is needed, at least in the west (lemna is already quite widely consumed in Asia). 
  • There are also relatively few up-and-running companies in the segment, with limited product variety in Europe and the US. However, this does mean up and coming startups have a chance to stand out. 
  • Then there’s the issue of regulation. Lemna entrepreneurs need government, or EU, approval - the failure of LemnaPro hints at the challenges thrown up by the legal hoops brands must jump through. 
  • Lastly, attempts were made to introduce lemna into the food system in the 20th century, but consumer hesitation and plant diseases stymied the efforts. Could history repeat itself? 

 💡 The bottom line

  • Though little known among the average consumer, lemna is on the up - and is on its way to becoming a hot topic among food entrepreneurs and sustainability advocates. 
  • Lemna has the potential to be the new super-green, as kale once was, but brands will have to position themselves carefully, educate consumers wisely and surpass through legal obstacles to bring lemna into the limelight. 

How did you like today's Trends?

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🌱 What is it?

  • Have you ever noticed that creeping green film that can sometimes cover ponds, lakes and still bodies of freshwater? Meet lemna - also known as duckweed or the water lentil. 
  • This miniscule aquatic plant forms sprawling green carpets on freshwater, cutting off the supply of oxygen to the plants and animals living beneath the surface.
  • But while lemna is considered a headache in those circumstances, it might actually be something of a gift to the food industry when grown in a controlled environment… 

🤔 Tell me more…

  • How so? Well, lemna is incredibly rich in protein and grows at an extraordinarily speedy pace, making it ideal for mass-scale production.  
  • What’s more, this microalgae is easier for humans to digest than soy or pea protein and has a neutral, slightly nutty flavour and colour, so has the potential to be used in a wide variety of food applications. 

📈 The figures

  • The worldwide algae protein market size was already worth $690.8m in 2018, and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 6.71% to 2025
  • North America is the largest market at present, but Europe is catching up thanks to the growth of marine aquaculture in Scandinavia.

🤷‍♂️ Why?

  • If you’ve never heard of lemna, then you’re far from alone. This underrated, little-known microalgae has the potential to be an alternative source of plant protein given its high levels of the muscle-building element. This could fuel consumers’ rising demand for high-protein foods, and help in the hunt for a sustainable source to feed the hungry world population. 
  • Health-conscious millennials and Gen-Zers are looking to functional foods as a convenient way to get their nutrients. Lemna, like other microalgae, is crammed full of vitamins and contains all the essential amino acids, so it should resonate with those looking for more nutritious choices.
  • Lemna is also good for the environment as it’s grown in ponds, no agricultural land is needed and no soil is eroded in the process. It is very water-efficient. With well over half of the world’s population projected to live in cities by 2050, innovative food growing systems that require little land will be vital to ensure food security - and microalgae like lemna could well be part of the solution. 

🔍 How is it shaping up?

  • One of the reasons lemna has the potential to become a food industry wunderkind is because it’s so rich in protein, made up of about 25-45% protein depending on the variety. 
  • Some companies are processing the plant into protein powders for this reason, including Rubisco Foods in the Netherlands and Hinoman in Israel. Then there’s US-based Parabel who’s flagship product Lentein is a powder which is higher in essential amino acids than soy. 
  • Many companies see potential in lemna as a plant-based protein to rival soy and pea proteins - easier on the environment and with added nutritional value. Aquible in California are busy developing their B2B plant-based protein, similar to AdGreen in Thailand and microTERRA in Mexico. 
  • Of course, nutrition isn’t the only important factor when it comes to manufacturing and selling food. Taste and texture are important to consumers, particularly where plant-based alternatives are concerned. Here, the little water lentil excels too: it’s neutral in taste, so is well-suited to mimicking other products like milk (Parabel Foods) and egg whites (Plantible Foods). 

👀 Who? (9 companies in this space)

  • AdGreen (plant-based protein from lemna, Thailand)
  • Ajinomoto (lemna food ingredient, Japan) 
  • Aquible (B2B plant protein made from lemna, USA)
  • DryGro (lemna as a sustainable animal feed alternative to soy, UK)
  • Hinoman Ltd. (dried whole plant lemna powder, Israel) 
  • microTERRA (functional lemna-based plant-based protein, Mexico)
  • Parabel (lemna-based food ingredient ‘Lentein’, USA)
  • Plantible Foods (duckweed food ingredient, USA)
  • Rubisco Foods (lemna-based plant protein and protein powder, Netherlands)

 ​​💦 Case study: Plantible Foods

  • Plantible Foods is a B2B food technology startup developing plant-based proteins with the help of lemna. 
  • The plan is to launch its lemna-based ingredient - known as Rubi Protein - in 2022. 
  • This functional ingredient is so named because it is rich in the enzyme RuBisCO, which Plantible extracts from the lemna it manufactures en masse. 
  • And Plantible is aiming high, with plans to ‘revolutionise the food system’ - the food-tech company claims its lemna production process is 400 times more protein-efficient than pea production, and a whopping 50,000 times more protein-efficient than manufacturing beef. 
  • Only founded in 2018, the company already has $32.6m in the bank (including investment from Kellogg’s), and just closed a Series A funding round having bagged $21.5 million
  • The money will help the brand to increase its production capacity even further, having already scaled up its facilities by a factor of 150 at their 8,000m2 pilot factory, in preparation for launching its product commercially. 
  • Interest has been high, with more than 50 companies testing Rubi Protein, including in plant-based meat and dairy, baked goods and protein powders. 

🇯🇵 Case study: Ajinomoto x Hinoman 

  • Ajinomoto is a leading Japanese ingredients company, specialising in food products and amino acids. In 2017, they bought exclusive sales rights to Mankai, a variety of lemna, by investing in Israeli company Hinoman
  • The master plan is to establish a new line of business by promoting the development and sale of processed foods using lemna and the sale of Mankai as a functional ingredient for the food industry. 
  • Mankai - which is simply a type of lemna by another name - is 45% protein and contains vitamins, minerals, unsaturated fatty acids such as omega-3 fatty acids and dietary fiber. 
  • Grown in a short period of time with relatively little water, light and fertilisers, Mankai can be produced efficiently without negatively impacting the planet.
  • And in July 2021, these plans came to fruition when Ajinomoto released MankaiⓇ a next-gen vegetable drink full of nutrients and vitamins, and made almost entirely from lemna. 

👍 The good

  • Lemna has many benefits: it’s good for the environment, good for health, and packed with protein and amino acids. 
  • Its nutritional benefits make it a great possibility for adding functional benefits to food products, while its neutral flavour and texture mean it has potential as a vegan alternative to eggs and milk. 
  • It’s also very sustainable: it grows rapidly, is 10 times more water-efficient than other crops and is grown in a closed system, so can be cultivated in all seasons as a result.

👎 The bad

  • Although sustainability is hot right now, algae may have an image problem. Floating green pond weeds aren’t exactly sexy, which may put hotshot investors - and consumers - off. Education and awareness-raising is needed, at least in the west (lemna is already quite widely consumed in Asia). 
  • There are also relatively few up-and-running companies in the segment, with limited product variety in Europe and the US. However, this does mean up and coming startups have a chance to stand out. 
  • Then there’s the issue of regulation. Lemna entrepreneurs need government, or EU, approval - the failure of LemnaPro hints at the challenges thrown up by the legal hoops brands must jump through. 
  • Lastly, attempts were made to introduce lemna into the food system in the 20th century, but consumer hesitation and plant diseases stymied the efforts. Could history repeat itself? 

 💡 The bottom line

  • Though little known among the average consumer, lemna is on the up - and is on its way to becoming a hot topic among food entrepreneurs and sustainability advocates. 
  • Lemna has the potential to be the new super-green, as kale once was, but brands will have to position themselves carefully, educate consumers wisely and surpass through legal obstacles to bring lemna into the limelight. 

How did you like today's Trends?

Love it 😁 Meh 😐 Hate it 🙁

🌱 What is it?

  • Have you ever noticed that creeping green film that can sometimes cover ponds, lakes and still bodies of freshwater? Meet lemna - also known as duckweed or the water lentil. 
  • This miniscule aquatic plant forms sprawling green carpets on freshwater, cutting off the supply of oxygen to the plants and animals living beneath the surface.
  • But while lemna is considered a headache in those circumstances, it might actually be something of a gift to the food industry when grown in a controlled environment… 

🤔 Tell me more…

  • How so? Well, lemna is incredibly rich in protein and grows at an extraordinarily speedy pace, making it ideal for mass-scale production.  
  • What’s more, this microalgae is easier for humans to digest than soy or pea protein and has a neutral, slightly nutty flavour and colour, so has the potential to be used in a wide variety of food applications. 

📈 The figures

  • The worldwide algae protein market size was already worth $690.8m in 2018, and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 6.71% to 2025
  • North America is the largest market at present, but Europe is catching up thanks to the growth of marine aquaculture in Scandinavia.

🤷‍♂️ Why?

  • If you’ve never heard of lemna, then you’re far from alone. This underrated, little-known microalgae has the potential to be an alternative source of plant protein given its high levels of the muscle-building element. This could fuel consumers’ rising demand for high-protein foods, and help in the hunt for a sustainable source to feed the hungry world population. 
  • Health-conscious millennials and Gen-Zers are looking to functional foods as a convenient way to get their nutrients. Lemna, like other microalgae, is crammed full of vitamins and contains all the essential amino acids, so it should resonate with those looking for more nutritious choices.
  • Lemna is also good for the environment as it’s grown in ponds, no agricultural land is needed and no soil is eroded in the process. It is very water-efficient. With well over half of the world’s population projected to live in cities by 2050, innovative food growing systems that require little land will be vital to ensure food security - and microalgae like lemna could well be part of the solution. 

🔍 How is it shaping up?

  • One of the reasons lemna has the potential to become a food industry wunderkind is because it’s so rich in protein, made up of about 25-45% protein depending on the variety. 
  • Some companies are processing the plant into protein powders for this reason, including Rubisco Foods in the Netherlands and Hinoman in Israel. Then there’s US-based Parabel who’s flagship product Lentein is a powder which is higher in essential amino acids than soy. 
  • Many companies see potential in lemna as a plant-based protein to rival soy and pea proteins - easier on the environment and with added nutritional value. Aquible in California are busy developing their B2B plant-based protein, similar to AdGreen in Thailand and microTERRA in Mexico. 
  • Of course, nutrition isn’t the only important factor when it comes to manufacturing and selling food. Taste and texture are important to consumers, particularly where plant-based alternatives are concerned. Here, the little water lentil excels too: it’s neutral in taste, so is well-suited to mimicking other products like milk (Parabel Foods) and egg whites (Plantible Foods). 

👀 Who? (9 companies in this space)

  • AdGreen (plant-based protein from lemna, Thailand)
  • Ajinomoto (lemna food ingredient, Japan) 
  • Aquible (B2B plant protein made from lemna, USA)
  • DryGro (lemna as a sustainable animal feed alternative to soy, UK)
  • Hinoman Ltd. (dried whole plant lemna powder, Israel) 
  • microTERRA (functional lemna-based plant-based protein, Mexico)
  • Parabel (lemna-based food ingredient ‘Lentein’, USA)
  • Plantible Foods (duckweed food ingredient, USA)
  • Rubisco Foods (lemna-based plant protein and protein powder, Netherlands)

 ​​💦 Case study: Plantible Foods

  • Plantible Foods is a B2B food technology startup developing plant-based proteins with the help of lemna. 
  • The plan is to launch its lemna-based ingredient - known as Rubi Protein - in 2022. 
  • This functional ingredient is so named because it is rich in the enzyme RuBisCO, which Plantible extracts from the lemna it manufactures en masse. 
  • And Plantible is aiming high, with plans to ‘revolutionise the food system’ - the food-tech company claims its lemna production process is 400 times more protein-efficient than pea production, and a whopping 50,000 times more protein-efficient than manufacturing beef. 
  • Only founded in 2018, the company already has $32.6m in the bank (including investment from Kellogg’s), and just closed a Series A funding round having bagged $21.5 million
  • The money will help the brand to increase its production capacity even further, having already scaled up its facilities by a factor of 150 at their 8,000m2 pilot factory, in preparation for launching its product commercially. 
  • Interest has been high, with more than 50 companies testing Rubi Protein, including in plant-based meat and dairy, baked goods and protein powders. 

🇯🇵 Case study: Ajinomoto x Hinoman 

  • Ajinomoto is a leading Japanese ingredients company, specialising in food products and amino acids. In 2017, they bought exclusive sales rights to Mankai, a variety of lemna, by investing in Israeli company Hinoman
  • The master plan is to establish a new line of business by promoting the development and sale of processed foods using lemna and the sale of Mankai as a functional ingredient for the food industry. 
  • Mankai - which is simply a type of lemna by another name - is 45% protein and contains vitamins, minerals, unsaturated fatty acids such as omega-3 fatty acids and dietary fiber. 
  • Grown in a short period of time with relatively little water, light and fertilisers, Mankai can be produced efficiently without negatively impacting the planet.
  • And in July 2021, these plans came to fruition when Ajinomoto released MankaiⓇ a next-gen vegetable drink full of nutrients and vitamins, and made almost entirely from lemna. 

👍 The good

  • Lemna has many benefits: it’s good for the environment, good for health, and packed with protein and amino acids. 
  • Its nutritional benefits make it a great possibility for adding functional benefits to food products, while its neutral flavour and texture mean it has potential as a vegan alternative to eggs and milk. 
  • It’s also very sustainable: it grows rapidly, is 10 times more water-efficient than other crops and is grown in a closed system, so can be cultivated in all seasons as a result.

👎 The bad

  • Although sustainability is hot right now, algae may have an image problem. Floating green pond weeds aren’t exactly sexy, which may put hotshot investors - and consumers - off. Education and awareness-raising is needed, at least in the west (lemna is already quite widely consumed in Asia). 
  • There are also relatively few up-and-running companies in the segment, with limited product variety in Europe and the US. However, this does mean up and coming startups have a chance to stand out. 
  • Then there’s the issue of regulation. Lemna entrepreneurs need government, or EU, approval - the failure of LemnaPro hints at the challenges thrown up by the legal hoops brands must jump through. 
  • Lastly, attempts were made to introduce lemna into the food system in the 20th century, but consumer hesitation and plant diseases stymied the efforts. Could history repeat itself? 

 💡 The bottom line

  • Though little known among the average consumer, lemna is on the up - and is on its way to becoming a hot topic among food entrepreneurs and sustainability advocates. 
  • Lemna has the potential to be the new super-green, as kale once was, but brands will have to position themselves carefully, educate consumers wisely and surpass through legal obstacles to bring lemna into the limelight. 

How did you like today's Trends?

Love it 😁 Meh 😐 Hate it 🙁

🌱 What is it?

  • Have you ever noticed that creeping green film that can sometimes cover ponds, lakes and still bodies of freshwater? Meet lemna - also known as duckweed or the water lentil. 
  • This miniscule aquatic plant forms sprawling green carpets on freshwater, cutting off the supply of oxygen to the plants and animals living beneath the surface.
  • But while lemna is considered a headache in those circumstances, it might actually be something of a gift to the food industry when grown in a controlled environment… 

🤔 Tell me more…

  • How so? Well, lemna is incredibly rich in protein and grows at an extraordinarily speedy pace, making it ideal for mass-scale production.  
  • What’s more, this microalgae is easier for humans to digest than soy or pea protein and has a neutral, slightly nutty flavour and colour, so has the potential to be used in a wide variety of food applications. 

📈 The figures

  • The worldwide algae protein market size was already worth $690.8m in 2018, and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 6.71% to 2025
  • North America is the largest market at present, but Europe is catching up thanks to the growth of marine aquaculture in Scandinavia.

🤷‍♂️ Why?

  • If you’ve never heard of lemna, then you’re far from alone. This underrated, little-known microalgae has the potential to be an alternative source of plant protein given its high levels of the muscle-building element. This could fuel consumers’ rising demand for high-protein foods, and help in the hunt for a sustainable source to feed the hungry world population. 
  • Health-conscious millennials and Gen-Zers are looking to functional foods as a convenient way to get their nutrients. Lemna, like other microalgae, is crammed full of vitamins and contains all the essential amino acids, so it should resonate with those looking for more nutritious choices.
  • Lemna is also good for the environment as it’s grown in ponds, no agricultural land is needed and no soil is eroded in the process. It is very water-efficient. With well over half of the world’s population projected to live in cities by 2050, innovative food growing systems that require little land will be vital to ensure food security - and microalgae like lemna could well be part of the solution. 

🔍 How is it shaping up?

  • One of the reasons lemna has the potential to become a food industry wunderkind is because it’s so rich in protein, made up of about 25-45% protein depending on the variety. 
  • Some companies are processing the plant into protein powders for this reason, including Rubisco Foods in the Netherlands and Hinoman in Israel. Then there’s US-based Parabel who’s flagship product Lentein is a powder which is higher in essential amino acids than soy. 
  • Many companies see potential in lemna as a plant-based protein to rival soy and pea proteins - easier on the environment and with added nutritional value. Aquible in California are busy developing their B2B plant-based protein, similar to AdGreen in Thailand and microTERRA in Mexico. 
  • Of course, nutrition isn’t the only important factor when it comes to manufacturing and selling food. Taste and texture are important to consumers, particularly where plant-based alternatives are concerned. Here, the little water lentil excels too: it’s neutral in taste, so is well-suited to mimicking other products like milk (Parabel Foods) and egg whites (Plantible Foods). 

👀 Who? (9 companies in this space)

  • AdGreen (plant-based protein from lemna, Thailand)
  • Ajinomoto (lemna food ingredient, Japan) 
  • Aquible (B2B plant protein made from lemna, USA)
  • DryGro (lemna as a sustainable animal feed alternative to soy, UK)
  • Hinoman Ltd. (dried whole plant lemna powder, Israel) 
  • microTERRA (functional lemna-based plant-based protein, Mexico)
  • Parabel (lemna-based food ingredient ‘Lentein’, USA)
  • Plantible Foods (duckweed food ingredient, USA)
  • Rubisco Foods (lemna-based plant protein and protein powder, Netherlands)

 ​​💦 Case study: Plantible Foods

  • Plantible Foods is a B2B food technology startup developing plant-based proteins with the help of lemna. 
  • The plan is to launch its lemna-based ingredient - known as Rubi Protein - in 2022. 
  • This functional ingredient is so named because it is rich in the enzyme RuBisCO, which Plantible extracts from the lemna it manufactures en masse. 
  • And Plantible is aiming high, with plans to ‘revolutionise the food system’ - the food-tech company claims its lemna production process is 400 times more protein-efficient than pea production, and a whopping 50,000 times more protein-efficient than manufacturing beef. 
  • Only founded in 2018, the company already has $32.6m in the bank (including investment from Kellogg’s), and just closed a Series A funding round having bagged $21.5 million
  • The money will help the brand to increase its production capacity even further, having already scaled up its facilities by a factor of 150 at their 8,000m2 pilot factory, in preparation for launching its product commercially. 
  • Interest has been high, with more than 50 companies testing Rubi Protein, including in plant-based meat and dairy, baked goods and protein powders. 

🇯🇵 Case study: Ajinomoto x Hinoman 

  • Ajinomoto is a leading Japanese ingredients company, specialising in food products and amino acids. In 2017, they bought exclusive sales rights to Mankai, a variety of lemna, by investing in Israeli company Hinoman
  • The master plan is to establish a new line of business by promoting the development and sale of processed foods using lemna and the sale of Mankai as a functional ingredient for the food industry. 
  • Mankai - which is simply a type of lemna by another name - is 45% protein and contains vitamins, minerals, unsaturated fatty acids such as omega-3 fatty acids and dietary fiber. 
  • Grown in a short period of time with relatively little water, light and fertilisers, Mankai can be produced efficiently without negatively impacting the planet.
  • And in July 2021, these plans came to fruition when Ajinomoto released MankaiⓇ a next-gen vegetable drink full of nutrients and vitamins, and made almost entirely from lemna. 

👍 The good

  • Lemna has many benefits: it’s good for the environment, good for health, and packed with protein and amino acids. 
  • Its nutritional benefits make it a great possibility for adding functional benefits to food products, while its neutral flavour and texture mean it has potential as a vegan alternative to eggs and milk. 
  • It’s also very sustainable: it grows rapidly, is 10 times more water-efficient than other crops and is grown in a closed system, so can be cultivated in all seasons as a result.

👎 The bad

  • Although sustainability is hot right now, algae may have an image problem. Floating green pond weeds aren’t exactly sexy, which may put hotshot investors - and consumers - off. Education and awareness-raising is needed, at least in the west (lemna is already quite widely consumed in Asia). 
  • There are also relatively few up-and-running companies in the segment, with limited product variety in Europe and the US. However, this does mean up and coming startups have a chance to stand out. 
  • Then there’s the issue of regulation. Lemna entrepreneurs need government, or EU, approval - the failure of LemnaPro hints at the challenges thrown up by the legal hoops brands must jump through. 
  • Lastly, attempts were made to introduce lemna into the food system in the 20th century, but consumer hesitation and plant diseases stymied the efforts. Could history repeat itself? 

 💡 The bottom line

  • Though little known among the average consumer, lemna is on the up - and is on its way to becoming a hot topic among food entrepreneurs and sustainability advocates. 
  • Lemna has the potential to be the new super-green, as kale once was, but brands will have to position themselves carefully, educate consumers wisely and surpass through legal obstacles to bring lemna into the limelight. 

How did you like today's Trends?

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FoodTech News Digested ✉️
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Reports

Greener groceries: inside the race to make food shopping kinder on the planet
Sweetening the pill: the growth of health-enhancing gummy candies
Lemna in the limelight: is this tiny aquatic plant the future of sustainable food?
Game on: the 21 brands after the growing esports nutrition industry for gamers
New Energy: the 37 companies creating better-for-you energy drinks
Flour power: the rise of substitute alternatives to traditional wheat flour
Meet the lupini bean: the humble legume - and the next big superfood - you’ve never heard of
Animal Free Cheese: the 90+ brands on quest to make great tasting cheese, cow-free