Imagine if you could have a satisfyingly foamed cappuccino without the dairy or a perfectly chewy chocolate chip cookie without the eggs? In the quest for novel ingredients that are more nutritious with a smaller environmental footprint, Shiru is developing a platform to uncover plant-based proteins with unique capabilities.
Founded by protein biochemist and entrepreneur Dr. Jasmin Hume, Shiru’s goal is to develop a full suite of sustainable, nutritious and delicious novel plant-based ingredients using the company’s patent-pending discovery platform. These ingredients will require a small fraction of the land, energy and water footprint of animal derived eggs, meat, milk and gelatins.
While there are a number of companies working on plant-based alternatives, Shiru is taking a multidisciplinary approach that combines biotechnology and AI to create a platform that can work across the whole ecosystem to unlock the power of plant proteins. Proteins can be used in an infinite number of ways to modify food flavors in unexpected ways, bind with different taste receptors or express a full spectrum of colors.
With 400,000 known plant species to explore, each with roughly 40,000 different proteins, the unmapped universe of potential natural proteins is vast. Shiru is strategically analyzing these proteins to determine if they can confer sensory properties that can help us develop better foods.
Shiru does this by utilizing big data and information on hundreds of millions of protein sequences and structures and applying bioinformatics and machine learning to draw meaningful insights about the capabilities of these proteins. Precision fermentation is then used to create ingredients that can be utilized across the food sector. Combining these tools allows Shiru to uncover and develop an endless number of ingredients that create the same sensory mouthfeel and physical characteristics of food that we currently rely on animal products to create such as solubility, emulsification or gelation.
The company is currently working on finding functional gelling agents or proteins that can serve as egg white replacements in numerous baking and other food applications. Their next target is dairy replacements as it is technically challenging to get vegan cheeses to melt, stretch and bind fat. But the platform also allows for an almost limitless opportunity to discover and bring to life truly novel ingredients that convey completely new sensory experiences. What sets Shiru apart is that their methods are extendable in so many directions enabling them to truly reimagine the way we experience food.
In our pursuit to invest in and support companies that can serve as the building blocks for a healthier food system, Shiru presents the opportunity to create easy to formulate, cost effective, environmentally friendly and healthy foods. The company can develop ingredients with lower impacts to the environment that are the same or superior from a nutritional perspective and can replace two or three ingredients on a potential label with a single ingredient. Shiru also uses a very cost effective upcycling process which means they are creating ingredients that will enable us to feed more people with fewer resources going forward.
Maybe most excitingly, Shiru has the potential to advance the entire plant-based sector. The company’s ability to create ingredients that do not compromise on flavor and other attributes can significantly speed up consumer adoption of plant-based products.
The challenge of feeding a growing population with the increasing impacts of climate change will define our time. Solutions to producing more food with fewer resources will be essential. I am excited about Shiru’s potential to transform the plant-based food sector and am thrilled to lead their Series A and partner with Shiru in this next stage of their growth.
Shiru will use this recent investment to continue building its team, which spans science and fermentation to marketing and business development. Currently employing 22 people, Shiru plans to at least double its workforce within a year. Shiru will also move into a new custom-built headquarters in Alameda, Calif., in early 2022 and start scaling up manufacturing.
To learn more about Shiru’s story, listen to our recent Where We Grow From Here podcast episode “How Shiru is Leveraging AI to Feed the World More Sustainably”, featuring Jasmin Hume, CEO and Founder of Shiru. In our discussion, we cover Jasmin’s founding story and dive deeper into the technology used to power Shiru’s AI platform.