As a biotechnologist with a background in environmental engineering, Fei Luo understands nutrition and the impact that food manufacturing has on the planet like few others, such as the race to reduce food waste.
And because she wanted to use her knowledge and skills to make a difference in preserving the environment, she co-founded Toronto-based Liven Proteins in 2020.
“Our goal was to do two things – reduce food waste by upcycling it to make it usable, and find ways to enhance plant-based foods,” she says, noting that the company’s R & D (research and development) started in earnest in the summer of 2021.
Roughly a year into their existence, Liven Proteins has positioned itself as the first precision fermentation company in Canada that makes animal-free ingredients that possess the same nutritional value as their animal counterparts.
These days, they’re focusing on producing animal-free collagen and gelatin.
Essentially, Liven Proteins’ proprietary fermentation process uses lost, or waste, foods, to feed microorganisms that create a side stream.
“We then upcycle that side stream to produce food ingredients,” says Luo. “In the past, those side streams – about 20 per cent of protein, and 40 to 60 per cent of starch – were used just as animal feed and nothing more.”
One of those ingredients is collagen, which is good for joint health.
“Collagen doesn’t exist in plant-based foods, so our product – a white flake powder that’s very soluble and doesn’t affect texture – is used by companies to improve the texture, our mouthfeel of foods,” she explains. “It bridges the gap by spicing up plant-based foods and giving them a better texture.”
Additionally, Liven’s fermentation process will be utilized to create specialty collagen-based ingredients that will be used to create gelatin, as well as joint health and anti-aging products.
“Down the road, we are going to be working on creating functional ingredients that can be used to make things like gels,” Luo says.
The overall goal at Liven Proteins is two-pronged, she adds.
“We want to be innovative and do what no one else is doing in Canada. That means finding ways to enhance plant-based foods and bringing the circular economy to the Canadian and global food sector. We’re just scratching the surface right now, so we believe there’s much more to come.”
And in the process, Liven Proteins – along with other innovative Canadian companies – will do their part to make the Canadian food sector more efficient and sustainable.
That is very good news for everyone involved in the industry both at home and abroad.
Fei will be a keynote speaker at the CULTIVATE Sustainability Conference and Trade Show, being held at the RBC Convention Centre on September 7, 2022.
As a keynote speaker, Fei will present on Liven Protein’s innovative new process along with a question and answer period following.
Tickets for the conference are still available. Please visit foodbeveragemb.ca/CULTIVATE for more information.