While Moolec Science is the newest food company to debut on Nasdaq, Gastón Paladini doesn’t see becoming a public company as crossing a finish line of sorts. Instead, the CEO sees it as just the beginning.
“I personally believe this is a groundbreaking moment for the alternative protein space — specifically for molecular farming, what we believe is the fourth technological pillar in alternative protein,” Paladini said. “We are thrilled to see MLEC, our ticker in Nasdaq, as a flagship, not only for this new tech in food, but also for the scientific community as well. This is definitely a step forward for science in food.”
Right now, Moolec is an unknown name and quantity outside of food and agriculture tech. The company, which spun out of Argentina’s Bioceres Crop Solutions in 2020, doesn’t have any products on the market.
In the food space, Moolec is one of the pioneers of molecular farming, the process of harnessing the production power of plants to make particular substances through bioengineering. In this method, the genes of plants are modified so that as they grow, they create a substance that commonly comes from animals or other plants. The bioengineered plants are then harvested for that particular substance.
Moolec, which is positioned as a business-to-business company, has used molecular farming to create two product prototypes. One is chymosin — also known as rennet — an animal-produced protein used in cheesemaking, which Moolec has produced in safflower plants. Another prototype is the nutritional oil gamma-linoleic acid — commonly abbreviated GLA — also in safflower plants. The company has longer-range plans to make proteins that can replicate meat.
With the exception of a couple big trading spikes after the SPAC merger was approved and when trading began, Moolec’s share price has remained fairly steady at about $5.50. That share price is fine for now, Paladini said, adding that Moolec went public for visibility and exposure.
Making a new industry grow
When Moolec Science became its own company in 2020, Paladini said that people in the alternative proteins space were confused. Molecular farming sounded like a strange concept, and Paladini said there really was nobody else trying to do it.
“I founded Moolec because I truly believe that we need to find alternative solutions to push the [food] system in some way,” said Paladini whose family has worked in traditional animal farming for generations in Argentina. Hence, he knows and understands the meat industry.
Paladini stressed that it isn’t his goal to put the traditional industry out of business, just to produce new solutions to improve on sustainability, as well as the quality of alternatives.
“I personally believe this is a groundbreaking moment for the alternative protein space — specifically for molecular farming, what we believe is the fourth technological pillar in alternative protein.”
Co-founder and CEO, Moolec Science
While Moolec has nothing available on the open market yet, it has moved past experimenting in the lab. Paladini said that the company is scaling up its chymosin and GLA ingredients and seeking patents and regulatory approval. But a lot of other R&D efforts continue, he said, as Moolec seeks to make a dent in a variety of traditional animal-derived ingredients.
“Nasdaq gives us visibility and credibility to eventually [have] robust conversations with established players and that could eventually include ingredient companies, food producers, CPG companies and then other alternative protein companies, as well,” Paladini said.
However, Paladini said he’s glad to see more companies coming into the space. Molecular farming is becoming more common, with a handful of companies using the high tech solution. Recently, Elo Life Systems, which uses molecular farming to make monk fruit sweetener, and IngredientWerks, which produces animal proteins through molecular farming, announced new funding rounds.
Timing is everything
While market turmoil has put a damper on companies choosing to go public, Paladini said that the timing of Moolec’s trading debut is not a problem. Before entering the markets, he said, the company had several institutional investors backing it. The same is true today.
The debut on Nasdaq has brought Moolec more funds, which the company plans on using to expand its R&D and operations while preparing for product launches. The company has set a 2025 launch date for chymosin and GLA. Paladini said the company is in talks with manufacturers about Moolec’s ingredients but could not offer more details.
Moolec Science is working on other meat replacement protein ingredients — called POORK+ and BEEF+ — that are being developed in yeast, soybean and pea plants. But Paladini said the plants are still being developed and grown in greenhouses, rather than being tested in open field cultivation.
The pork and beef replacement proteins, as of now, are being targeted for launches potentially as early as 2025, but ranging to 2029. Moolec estimates that the available market for these ingredients is worth $1.5 billion.
Paladini is looking forward to using Moolec’s position on Nasdaq to strengthen molecular farming’s position as a “fourth pillar” of alternative protein development and working with companies from across the spectrum of the food business.
“To be honest, this is a race between planet degradation. It’s a sustainability race,” Paladini said. “We all have the same goal. …The problem analysis is quite the same.”