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From biomass to bolognese: Innovating with microalgae

Article-From biomass to bolognese: Innovating with microalgae

Vegan meatballs and spaghetti © iStock/Eva-Katalin RS2, vegan meatballs and spaghetti, pasta, plant-based, vegetarian, Eva-Katalin, iStock-1287468525.jpg
French startup Edonia has developed a patent-pending process for transforming microalgae into a protein- and nutrient-rich replacement for minced meat, and its first product could be on the market by the end of the year. 

“I’m convinced that microalgae will play an important role in the transition to plant protein and will be a great tool in building a more sustainable food system. I’m also convinced that we need innovation to make it taste good and to assure its place on our plates and in our daily diets,” Hugo Valentin, CEO and co-founder of Edonia, told this publication.

He continued: “Microalgae is one of the most promising protein sources because it is highly nutritious, sustainable and already available, but the problem is that it is often presented as a smelly green powder with a strong taste. Our aim is to solve this through technology.”

Edonisation: Patent-pending process to transform microalgae

Edonia’s solution has come in the form of a patent-pending process called “edonisation”, developed in collaboration with Paris-Saclay University’s research department, AgroParisTech. Edonisation is said to overcome consumer acceptance issues by transforming the colour, texture and flavour of the microalgae.

Applied to spirulina and chlorella biomass, the technology changes the colour of the biomass from green to dark brown; changes it from a paste or powder to an ingredient with a fluffy, grain-like texture; and alters the flavour profile, eliminating off notes and bitterness and generating umami, subtly grilled and smoky flavours, according to Edonia. And all of this is without the addition of texturising agents, enzymes, colours or flavours.

“There are aromatic precursors in the biomass and our process unlocks this flavour. The process is 100% natural, which is why it is so innovative. We do not fragment or extract the biomass and we do not add anything else,” said Valentin.

More nutritious than meat

The “clean” process yields an ingredient – branded Edo-1 – with a sensory profile that is close to minced meat, and a superior nutritional profile versus its meat-derived counterpart, claimed Edonia.

“Our product contains 30% protein and it is high quality protein, with all the essential amino acids present. This compares favourably with ground beef, which has a protein content of around 20-22%. Our product also contains a lot more iron, because spirulina is one of the most iron-rich materials on earth,” said Valentin.

Edo-1’s nutritional profile makes it an interesting candidate for meat replacement in prepared foods like bolognese, meatballs and patties - a space where historically, the focus on simulating the sensory experience of meat has often been at the expense of nutritional value.

Its sustainability profile is also said to compare favourably with minced meat and other vegan meat replacers; a Life Cycle Assessment carried our with AgroParisTech showed that the product could emit 40 times less CO2 than its ground meat equivalent and three times less than its texturised soy equivalent.

No novel food status means faster commercialisation

Unlike many emerging alternative proteins, Edonia’s solution is not subject to novel food authorisation, which supports rapid commercialisation by eliminating a potentially major obstacle to market.

Edonia has just completed its first round of funding, led by Asterion Ventures. This has raised €2m in investment which will finance the establishment of a pilot plant.

“We will be able to deliver the first production by the end of the year. Then we will continue our scale up. Our vision is to have our own factory for transforming microalgae biomass into this ingredient,” confirmed Valentin.

He added that one of the benefits of using spirulina and/or chlorella biomass as the raw material is that, due to the popularity of spirulina as a supplement ingredient, there is an established supply of biomass. Edonia is currently working primarily with microalgae producers in France and Portugal to source the biomass for its process.


Edonia said its product had met with a positive response from the marketplace and that it has already established an industrial proof of concept with one food manufacturer for a vegan bolognese sauce. This manufacturer will be the recipient of Edonia’s first production run when the pilot plant comes on-stream later this year.