Motif FoodWorks expands business to help startups


Dive Brief:

  • Motif FoodWorks will be offering its fermentation and bioprocessing services to companies looking to scale up. It will work with startups at bench scale — large enough to make a small amount for testing and prototyping purposes.
  • “Motif’s Plant Base,” as the company calls it, is a market development and research center housing its fermentation, ingredient and finished-product production.
  • Motif is the latest player to get into the biotech facilities space. Last year, precision fermentation dairy protein ingredient maker Perfect Day launched its nth Bio business, and Liberation Labs, co-founded by former food tech scale-up consultant Mark Warner, is developing its 600,000-liter precision fermentation facility in Indiana.

Dive Insight:

Figuring out the science to create an ingredient or product made through technology isn’t necessarily the hardest part for startups. Making sure that the process works at large scale, and solving problems that appear as capacities increase can be extremely difficult and time consuming.

Food-grade equipment for bioprocessing and precision fermentation is expensive, and there is not much of it available today. It is much easier for startups to work with companies that already have this infrastructure instead of building their own.

Motif FoodWorks, based in Boston, was spun off of buzzy Ginkgo Bioworks in 2019. The company has often looked outside of traditional food disciplines for its research, partnering with the University of Queensland in Australia to study the physics behind the texture of food as it’s consumed. They’ve also teamed with the University of Guelph in Canada and the founder of tech company Coasun, Alejandro Marangoni, for access to technology that can create more authentic fat textures in plant-based meat and improve the texture of plant-based cheese.

Motif announced it was building its Plant Base at the end of 2021, using some of the proceeds of its then-recent $226 million Series B investment round.

Motif said in a release about the new facility that just a few years ago, it was in a similar position to some of the startups it will be working with. This new business allows Motif to share its knowledge, experience and equipment with others, and it is likely to be another growing part of its business — Motif plans to eventually build out pilot-scale capabilities for companies it works with, the release says.

The first company Motif is working with through the new business is Arcaea, a biology-grounded beauty and cosmetics startup.

Motif — which has heme and texturizing ingredients on the market, as well as plant-based beef, pork and chicken lines — is not the first company in the food tech space to make its experience and equipment a new business area. After becoming established as a precision fermentation whey provider with its ingredients powering an array of consumer products, Perfect Day made a similar move last year. Perfect Day’s nth Bio is located in its 60,000-square-foot Salt Lake City hub, and its first partner is precision fermentation egg white protein maker Onego Bio.

Business lines like these are essentially a way that companies are giving back and helping out others to enter into the space. Biotech ingredients may one day be common in food products, but that depends on companies being able to get started. Independent companies, such as Liberation Labs, are also looking to fill in the gaps to help newcomers get their technology and processes off the ground, but players like Motif can lend more personal experience.

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About the Author

Jervie David Montejar
A food lover who wants to try every delicious dishes around him and spread the news to everyone to try it as well. Finding the latest trends about food and restaurants around Cebu and the rest of the world :) "Life is uncertain. Eat dessert first." -Ernestine Ulmer
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