Innovation in the food sector has a wide horizon for growth and the start-up from Vigo ODS-Protein is developing a project focused on enriching foods with proteins to obtain better products with a more attractive texture. In addition, the objective of using fewer natural resources to obtain proteins is achieved, a path that it seems that the food industry will have to follow in the coming decades.
Iria Varela and Martín Rodríguez are the founding partners of this project that had been selected in the Incuvi de Vigo program in 2019 and that will later be developed in 2020 in the BFFood accelerator, specialized in the food sector and promoted by the Xunta de Galicia and the Galician Food Cluster. The support of the Galician Innovation Agency (Gain) allowed the creation of the company in 2021.
ODS-Protein has a connection with Uvigo and was also selected to participate in the BioIncubaTech program, a high-tech incubator for the promotion of innovation and the transfer of biotechnology in the field of health and food technologies to micro-SMEs. BioIncubaTech is promoted by the USC and financed by the INCYDE Foundation, within the ERDF Operational Program for smart growth, and by the Xunta de Galicia.
Martín Rodríguez, CTO of the company and specialized in Food Technology, explains that the research on which the ODS-Protein project is based is the development of alternative proteins obtained from fermentation: “What we did was to develop own yeast from food waste and we are now in the product validation phase. This type of protein can be incorporated into meat, dairy products, vegans, sports nutrition, pastries, etc.”
In the research process, they managed to produce products with a percentage of over 60 percent protein in dry weight, which means a good amount of protein and fiber. Now they are working on the liquid retention capacity and the solubility of the product. “It is a complete protein, with all the amino acids and what is achieved is to enrich the food and give it a better texture,” says Rodríguez.
Looking ahead to next year, the company’s objective is to increase its financing and increase production in order to be able to market the products to customers by the end of 2023. “We are close to closing a first round of investments and, by next year, we intend to scale production at industrial levels. We also work together with Anfaco to develop products and our idea is to expand internationally and find partners that allow us to start producing”, says the company’s CTO.
Rodríguez highlights the importance of the public support obtained for the implementation of the project and to advance more safely towards its objectives. Currently the partners of the company work from Uvigo itself and production is carried out in the Technological Park of Galicia (Tecnópole) in Ourense.
Rodríguez points out that both in Galicia and in Spain the weight of the traditional food sector is very important, but there are also many companies that are looking for new sources of protein to incorporate into their products. “Other countries are more advanced in this type of research, but we believe that given the importance of the food sector in Galicia, these initiatives can be very beneficial.”
The availability of food is going to be a challenge in the future due to the growth estimates of the world population made by the FAO. For this reason, one of the objectives of ODS-Protein is to provide alternative proteins to the food industry with a project marked by biotechnology, innovation and sustainability.