Spirulina innovator SimpliiGood aims to up the fish substitute game with smoked salmon from nutritious, sustainably grown blue-green algae.
By Abigail Klein Leichman, Israel21c
If Israeli startup SimpliiGood succeeds in its quest to make smoked “salmon” from nothing but micronutrient-rich spirulina, no fish will be caught, killed and shipped multiple miles to top your bagel.
We know what you’re thinking: how could blue-green algae possibly stand in for smoked salmon in look, taste and texture?
Never fear. SimpliiGood parent company AlgaeCore Technologies already grows and harvests the sea plant to make spirulina-centered food products including vegan burgers and chicken nuggets, popsicles and ice cream, crackers and beverages.
The unique smoked salmon analog, expected to hit the market by the end of 2023, will join this portfolio of products marketed in Israel to food producers and directly to consumers.
SimpliiGood’s texturization platform forms salmon-like chunks from spirulina with the same mouthfeel as the animal form, containing 40% complete protein. The product gets its orange, salmon-like hue through a process that isolates the beta carotene pigment naturally present in spirulina.
International food conglomerate IFF-DuPont’s FoodNxt food-tech innovation lab, based in Israel, is teaming up SimpliiGood and the Israel Innovation Authority to get the product on the market. IFF-DuPont will contribute the faux salmon’s flavor and aroma attributes.
“Our spirulina can act as a complete replacement for animal-based protein or be easily integrated into existing food products as an added-value ingredient, as it has a neutral flavor and maintains its full nutritional value,” said Lior Shalev, CEO and co-founder of AlgaeCore.
“This project marks an exciting milestone in our company’s product line expansion as we enter the fish substitute market,” said Shalev.
Converting Solar Energy Into Protein
The fish sector is one of the newest to be disrupted by plant-based or cultivated alternatives, in reaction to overfishing and toxins such as mercury, fossil fuels and industrial waste that find their way into fish flesh.
Israeli company Plantish is working toward commercializing a vegan version of whole-cut salmon filet, one of the world’s most popular fish products.
Shalev points out that spirulina is one of the most nutrient-dense plant-based forms of protein on the planet, providing whole protein, antioxidants, chlorophyll, vitamins and minerals (including B12 and iron).
While the relatively young spirulina market is dominated by dried and powdered forms of the ingredient, SimpliiGood cultivates and markets a specific strain of fresh spirulina that boasts 90% nutrient bioavailability.
The spirulina grows in greenhouse-enclosed ponds in Israel’s sunny southern desert region, and 98% of the water used in the process is recycled. Fifty tons of spirulina are produced there each year, with a harvest every 24 hours.
“The spirulina SimpliiGood cultivates is one of the most efficient converters of solar energy into protein,” explained Shalev.
“Spirulina requires salt, minerals, heat, CO2, and water to thrive. The process of growing spirulina actually captures carbon and uses it to grow. The strain that the animal food industry places on the environment and food security has elevated the need to develop sustainable protein substitutes.”