Founded in 2018 by Sasikanth Chamalaudi (COO) and Priyanka Srinivas (CEO), based in Boston the living green companybacked by DRADS Capital (which led a $7 million pre-Series A round in January 2022), has operations in the US, Chile, India, and Singapore, and is developing its fermentation capabilities from precision in India at its R&D center.
The project was started by researcher Archana Nagarajan and is now led by Dr. Kavish Kumar Jain, a former Perfect Day Principal Scientist with experience working with multiple microbial hosts in solid-state and submerged fermentation.
‘There is a great need to adapt the machinery of other fungi…’
The new division is working closely with the International Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB) and is exploring a range of ingredients including, among others, proteins, Chamalaudi told FoodNavigator-USA.
“We have around 100 liters of fermentation capacity, but we also have partnerships with ICGEB and some CROs. [Contract Research Organizations] that can take us about 300 litres, and by then we would need to scale the facility for commercial production, so we are working in partnership with established companies who can take this to the next level.”
Unlike Perfect Day, which uses precision fermentation to produce animal proteins like whey without cows, The Live Green Co will initially work with Charaka to identify plant components with specific target properties and then express them in engineered microbes for partners. of CPG can make ‘plant-only’ products, he said.
“There are several reasons why we got into precision fermentation,”Chamalaudi said. “One is that there are almost 450,000 plants in nature, but modern science has only explored 1-2% of them, and most of the recommendations are from our AI ML platform. [Charaka] Dons are not readily available commercially, so precision fermentation helps us synthesize them in a scalable way.“.
“Currently, the entire food industry depends on a single fungal host, trichoderma [Perfect Day, for example, uses Trichoderma Reesei as its production organism for the whey protein beta lactoglobulin]. And there is a great need to adapt the machinery of other fungi to the requirements of the food industry to produce the ingredients of interest in higher quantities much faster, with fewer resources and in a more sustainable way.” Dr. Kavish Kumar Jain, Precision Fermentation Leader, The Live Green Co
Take methylcellulose, for example, he said, a highly functional ingredient that many companies are looking to replace, which is created from cellulose (a natural substance found in plant cells) by heating with a caustic (alkali) solution and treatment with methyl chloride.
Using commercially available plant-based ingredients, Chamalaudi said, “I would say we are about 70% there [in finding label-friendly plant-based alternatives] in the sense that we’re getting the gel properties right, but we still have to get the springiness or bounce that we want.
“And it’s areas like this where we see precision fermentation can help, because when you use natural ingredients in their natural state, you often have to use a lot of that ingredient to get the desired property, but with precision fermentation, you can focus in [identifying individual plant components such as proteins with] the desired property and then produce them at scale.
Technological enabler for the food industry in general
While Santiago-based NotCo uses its ‘Giuseppe’ artificial intelligence platform to help it reverse engineer meat and dairy products and rebuild them with plants to make NotCo branded products*; Live Green is working with CPG companies in multiple food and beverage categories looking to clean up labels, not just meat and dairy analogues, Chamalaudi explained.
“Since day one, our model has been to collaborate with the industry – ingredient companies, food manufacturers and retailers – because we want to create change on a large scale and we don’t see that being possible by focusing on developing a CPG brand, even though we have launched Some [Live Green branded] products in Chile to validate the technology”.
Alliances with the main food companies
As part of its bid to be an ‘enabler’ for the food industry at large, Live Green licenses product formulations developed by Charaka and offers private label plant-only products, product premixes and ingredients to CPG companies seeking replace ingredients of animal origin. including milk and eggs, and additives such as gums, stabilizers, emulsifiers, antifreeze and anticaking agents and binders.
“But there are also cases where we work with clients so that they can co-own the intellectual property.” Chamalaudi said.
“We have identified 150 commonly used food and beverage additives across 30 different product categories across 25 geographies that consumers buy fairly regularly, but our portfolio is guided by what our partners are looking for.
“We have already established partnerships with companies including [beverage industry giant] Asahi, so we are working on several projects with them using Charaka and precision fermentation. We are also working with [Malaysian pharma co] duopharma and [Mexico-based food conglomerate] Sigma Foods.”
Methylcellulose, sodium bicarbonate, MSG, BHA, BHT…
Right now, for example, there’s interest in replacing everything from methyl cellulose, sodium bicarbonate and MSG to BHA and BHT, he said, noting that in many cases there’s no instant plant-based replacement, but a mixture of components of plant origin that Charaka has identified based on their functionalities and properties in combination.
“Charaka helps us identify the key base formulation or base set of ingredients really quickly.”
In some cases, he said, it’s less about high-tech molecular analysis than taxonomy. “Thus we know that Neem (Azadirachta indica) is recognized in India as a medicinal plant for its antibacterial properties and it could be identified that Melia [a medicinal plant that grows in Chile, where The Live Green Co has a base]has similar properties and can be used as a replacement.”
Focus on 2023 is “execution”, he said. “We already have a ton of business deals with really established companies around the world, and we should start providing proof of concepts to them in Q1 2023 and continue to work with them to figure out how to scale.”
* based in Santiago NotCorecently expanded its remit, creating a b2b platform that allows third parties to benefit from its proprietary ‘Giuseppe’ artificial intelligence (AI) platform. NotCo, which recently formed a joint venture with Kraft Heinzto develop a range of co-branded products (starting with ‘no cheese) said his goal is to allow “other CPGs brands, ingredient suppliers and technology providers to leverage Giuseppe for their own innovation purposes and exponentially accelerate the transformation of the plant-based industry.”