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Has NZ's Mara Bio Found 'The New Gold' Making Protein From Upcycled Biowaste?

In the heart of New Zealand's 'food basket', Hastings, Hawkes Bay lies an unassuming building housing a leading edge biotech protein enterprise called Mara Bio.

Inside, founders, Steve Boggs and Mark Balchin, embrace minimalism to its core. Here, they are not just recycling biowaste but revolutionising it into something much more valuable: protein - the new gold.

Mara Bio has harnessed the power of edible fungi to transform food industry byproducts, which Steve Boggs aptly renames 'side streams' to avoid the unpalatable connotations of 'waste'. These byproducts, ranging from fruit pulp to spent grains from brewing, are typically destined for landfill or animal feed. Mara Bio's ingenuity, however, sees this 'waste' as a golden opportunity for up-cycling.

Spent grain from a brewery

Photo 298989608 © Iakov Filimonov | Spent Brewery Grain

The process is a marvel of modern biotechnology where a native fungal organism is introduced to the side streams, and through fermentation, these scraps are converted into high-quality protein. This protein can then enhance a myriad of products, from oat milk ice cream to protein-enriched pasta.

The implications of Mara Bio's work are vast, with food security at the forefront. Mark Balchin points out the increasing difficulty and cost of traditional protein production. 'Its a problem compounded by the environmental burdens of popular plant-based proteins like pea and soy', says Mark Balchin.

Enter Dr. Maya Tangestani, a microbiologist with a PhD from Canterbury University. Her expertise is pivotal to the team, focusing on isolating the perfect organism and refining the fermentation process for commercial production.

'Microorganisms prove to be incredibly versatile instruments in advancing sustainability objectives across various fields, including construction, energy, textiles, food, cosmetics, and fashion', says Dr Tangestani. 'The key lies in not only acquiring different sectors with this microbial potential but also in harnessing their inherent capabilities to fulfill specific tasks effectively'.

Mara Bio -Steve Boggs Co-Founder / Director - Dr. Maya Tangestani Head of Product Development - Mark Balchin CEO

Source: BayBizz-Hawkes Bay Steve Boggs Co-Founder / Director - Dr. Maya Tangestani Head of Product Development - Mark Balchin CEO

Mara Bio's mission is clearly about creating versatile proteins and functional ingredients from fungi with minimal environmental impact. This New Zealand biotech startup is not just passionate about food and health but is deeply committed to ecological stewardship. They are re-imagining the lifecycle of food production side streams, giving them new life as nutrient-rich ingredients for the food, nutraceutical, and pharmaceutical industries.

While their products are not yet market-ready, the potential is undeniable. With a focus on sustainability and innovation, Mara Bio is a shining example of how biotechnology can lead the way towards a greener, more sustainable future.

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