Fotortec: Unlocking fungi’s potential via the circular economy

Based in the US, Fotortec is a plant-based startup that is developing protein ingredients that are better for consumers, the environment, and society. The startup was founded by Rami Jadaa, who is part of the current cohort at the ProVeg Incubator, with mentorship provided by Nicolás Meneses, who is also a shareholder. This is the story of Fotortec.

What does your startup do and what is your mission? 

Rami: We support food manufacturers to supply their customers with triple-impact products – products that are sustainable and healthy, and which promote social impact. Fotortec replicates the way that nature recycles vegetable waste by transforming waste streams into edible mushrooms. We obtain the vegetable waste and process it into functional plant-based ingredients and flavour enhancers.

Where did the idea for your company come from? 

Rami: Growing up in Central and South America, I witnessed how sustainable products and quality nutrition do not reach everyone – despite strong agricultural production. I realised that the problem was not about increasing agricultural production. The problem revolves around using the energy of the sun more efficiently and reducing waste. 

My journey started during college. I was fascinated about fungi potential as a truly sustainable plant-based protein ingredient. I focused my research on how to obtain locally sourced plant-based protein ingredients with the aforementioned triple impact. As well as, proteins that are traceable and affordable. How? By transforming any type of vegetable waste stream into nutrient-rich mushrooms.

Tell us about your team. Who are you and why are you the right people for the project? 

Rami: I’m a microbiologist with seven years’ experience in industrial microbiology, international relations, and trade. 

Nicolás, our mentor and shareholder, is a food engineer with a PhD in novel food technologies. He has an MBA in education and has carried out numerous innovation projects at different companies. Nicolas focusses on building cooperation with stakeholders, scaling technologies, and product development. 

Rami and Nicolás – Fotortec’s team

 What are your favourite parts about building your business?

Rami: The most exciting part is using our intelligence to enhance and improve nature’s cycles. We are talking about recycling vegetable biomass directly into products that consumers want and need. We are talking about impact in terms of CO2 reduction and resource efficiency, along with the ability to create new local jobs while delivering sustainable ingredients world-wide. The fact that we’re helping to reshape our food systems, makes me jump out of bed every day!

Nicolas: My favourite parts are developing a business model that promotes the circular economy and finding the right partnerships to scale up. Likewise, developing new products that can support the plant-based industry is a fascinating space for me. 

What are the main challenges you’ve faced? 

Rami: Being a technical co-founder has some unique upsides, but also involves challenges. The naturally slow-paced growth of a biotech startup means that a huge amount of wisdom and knowledge is required to develop and implement a sales strategy. This strategy needs to be robust, ensure effective growth, and be able to supply market demand. These have been our great obstacles so far. 

What is it that makes your company unique? 

Rami: We are a highly specialised  startup that can transform any type of vegetable waste into fully traceable plant-based ingredients. Our Intellectual Property allows us to optimise the fermentation process. Also, to utilise machinery that lowers capital expenditure and cost of goods sold. This enables the production of mushrooms that would otherwise not be feasible to bring to market. In addition, our production plants can be set up anywhere in the world and each plant neutralises 230 tons of CO2 a day. If Fotortec’s plants multiply across the globe, it will have an enormous impact on the three pillars of sustainability – economic, environmental, and social – all over the world. 

Fotortec’s protein ingredient

Why did you decide to join the ProVeg Incubator? 

Rami: The ProVeg Incubator is the world’s largest incubator for plant-based startups, making it the right place to scale our business model. We are convinced that participating in the programme will help us to find like-minded people that can help Fotortec to scale up its production and sales. 

In your opinion, what do you think it takes for a startup to be successful? 

Rami: A team truly solves a problem by continuously improving essential indicators. If that happens, it is possible to overcome all obstacles. However, lots of persistence is of course also necessary.

What do you hope to achieve with your company in the next 12 months?

Rami: We are currently building our first plant for a third party that is franchising our technology. With this, we will outsource part of our production and meet the current demands of customers.

Over the next 12 months, we intend to integrate our franchised production in partnership with a leading manufacturer of food technology equipment. We’ll amplify our impact by increasing our product offerings and thus reach more consumers. These goals are part of our sustainable-growth strategy of supplying plant-based ingredients to manufacturers. As a result, we will empower them to reach more people with excellent plant-based food that is delicious, nutritious, and beneficial to the environment and society. 

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