A team of international students in Denmark known as Legendary Vish have developed 3D printing technology to commercialise plant-based alternatives to salmon and tuna in Europe.
Students who come from the University of Gothenburg, the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, and the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) met in 2017 during the EU-led research project Training4CRM. The group have plans to expand into other plant-based fish products, such as tuna or herring alternatives.
Initially, they developed 3D printing processes for medical technologies, but they saw a gap in the plant-based seafood sector.
“We saw that in the plant-based seafood market, there are currently mainly unstructured products, such as fish sticks or burgers. However, products with a more complex structure such as salmon fillets can not be found on the market right now,” Legendary Vish CEO Robin Simsa told FoodNavigator.
“We saw a unique opportunity in utilising 3D food printing to create seafood products with a complex structure, which cannot be achieved with classical extrusion technologies.”
Fish consumption has been growing approximately 3,6 per cent year on year. The oceans have been maximally exploited by overfishing.
Vegan fish products are a sustainable alternative to conventional fish. The production requires fewer CO₂ emissions and can be based on locally sourced raw materials. The plant-based alternatives can be produced without the high energy consumption of fishing vessels and refrigerated trucks used in fish transportation.
Legendary Vish products are made out of mushroom and pea proteins, and starch or agar-agar gelling agents. The final product will also contain avocado or seeds and nut oil containing omega-3 fatty acids.
“One thing that is very important to us is the re-creation of the nutritional value of fish, and especially the omega-3 fatty acids,” Simsa explained. There are many sources of plant-, or algae- based omega-3 fatty acids, and we are right now experimenting with different ingredients to find the best solution for our products.”
“For the taste of our products, we are working together with a specialised company in the field of flavour development to get a perfect salmon flavour by adding natural aromas and fragrances,” Simsa said.
“We have a 3D printing process which allows the extrusion of different plant-based ingredients – our ‘food inks’ – through different print heads. With this special process, we achieve the complex appearance of our salmon fillets, which show the realistic distribution of orange/red meat tissue and white connective tissue.”
The Legendary Vish project remains under development while the group applies for funding before launching a company. The new brand will initially focus on Northern Europe.
“We want to expand first to Scandinavia due to the high amount of seafood consumption and later also to other European countries. Our production upscale is planned to be finalised by 2022, and then consumers can get a first taste of our products.”
The group is open to pivoting its concept and becoming a technology supplier for other plant-based companies.