Legendary Vish creates 3D-printed salmon analogs made from mushroom proteins, algae extracts
Growing consumer interest in plant-based meat and seafood analogs is leading to more innovation and investment in the vegan food sector. Entering into this arena is new company Legendary Vish, which is creating 3D-printed salmon fillets made from high value plant-based ingredients, including mushroom proteins and algae extracts.
Robin Simsa, Hakan Gürbüz, and Theresa Rothenbücher came up with the idea while working together on an European Union-funded doctorate program surrounding the application of 3D bioprinting.
“We realized that with some small adaptions, we could use our own developed bioprinting setup to create 3D printed food, including seafood products that have a complex structure which cannot be achieved with classical extrusion technologies. The process allows us to recreate the consistency and appearance of different types of fish in detail,” Legendary Vish CEO Simsa told SeafoodSource.
The team represents the diversity present in the alternative protein movement – Rothenbücher is vegan, Simsa is vegetarian, and Gürbüz is a life-long meat lover, according to the trio. They embrace everyone who supports their vision of a sustainable food system, no matter what they like to eat, the group explained.
Simsa said the driving force behind Legendary Vish was to challenge traditional food production systems to become more sustainable and environmentally friendly, and to fill a gap in the market.
“The way we produce animal meat and seafood nowadays is not future-friendly. We want to offer environmentally-conscious consumers a tasty, nutritious and healthy alternative to conventional seafood, some of which has been found to contain antibiotics, heavy metals, microplastics, or other undesirable components,” he said.
Using locally-sourced materials, the scientists have been working hard to perfect the flavor profile of their prototype products, trialing a plant-based salmon-like spread with consumers to gain their reaction.
“We were thrilled that most of our test subjects could not believe they were not eating conventional salmon. We had to show many of them how we prepared it, so they would believe us,” Simsa said.
With the taste sorted, the challenges ahead for Legendary Vish include improving the 3D printing production process to refine the appearance of fresh salmon fillets, with a realistic distribution of orange and red meat tissue and white connective tissue.
According to Simsa, this requires five individual steps in order to recreate the complexity of the salmon products. Some steps required new modules, which have not been produced for 3D food printers before, so they had to design and produce those with their production partners. There is also the hurdle of overcoming consumer perceptions of 3D food printing, Simsa said.
“Consumers, when asked, find the concept of printed food to be unusual or strange, so we need to show maximum transparency in our production process in order to reassure them that 3D food printing is a healthy and easy-to-understand food production method,” Gürbüz said.
The trio are now working full-time on their project, and have joined programs run by the European organizations EIT Food and Climate EIT. GreenStart Austria included their business idea in its top 10 list of innovative products in 2020, a source of pride for the founders.
“By participating in these programs, we receive mentoring support from a range of business specialists and also gain access to a wide network of experts from leading food production companies. Another advantage is access to affordable laboratory space for start-ups and some welcome initial funding to support our R&D activities,” said Rothenbücher.
Legendary Vish is still in the early stages of development and expects to release its first product, a salmon fillet, in about two years’ time. In the meantime, the company is talking to regulatory agencies in Austria, where production will be based, to ensure the process complies with relevant hygiene and quality requirements.
To progress their ideas further, the trio are seeking pre-seed funding and are in discussion with several interested investors. They are also keen to talk to manufacturers, especially those with expertise in packaging solutions and distribution of cooled and frozen products.
If their salmon fillets prove to be a hit with the European sushi and sashimi market, there are tentative plans to develop other plant-based fish product including 3D-printed tuna or herring alternatives.
Photo courtesy of Legendary Vish