A Northern Ireland start-up business is in advanced talks with several multi-national food companies to manufacture the sustainable, plant-based foods it has created to help feed future generations.
Based at Innovation Factory in West Belfast, Born Maverick, the brainchild of biotechnologist Azhar Murtuza, has received funding from Innovate UK, Invest NI and the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) to develop food that will help reduce carbon emissions.
The company has just finalised a prototype of prawns and scallops made from seaweed that replicates the taste and texture of the real thing.
He said: “There is a huge demand for new products from global food companies and we have received interest in our vegan shrimps and scallops, particularly from the US, Scandinavia and Singapore. We are currently finding the right match for the product.”
As well as developing vegan seafood, the company is also working on the creation of highly nutritious plant-based dairy products and iced lollies that contain healthy nutrients and fibres.
His work on plant-based milk, cream and yoghurt is also at an advanced stage. “We are working with one of the biggest dairy companies in the Nordic countries to develop this product. Companies in Scandinavia are very forward-looking, they think on a global scale and are all about sustainability,” he said.
The company’s vegan lollies are a healthy alternative to the traditional sugary treats, providing much needed fibre, with a range of fruit flavours and alcohol-free cocktail flavours such pina colada and Irish Whiskey. He is currently in talks with a major dairy company in Sweden to manufacture them.
Besides above projects, Born Maverick has also started working on an ambitious project of extracting proteins from seaweed sources through his new venture Born Maverick Alt Pro Ltd in collaboration with Natural Resource Institute (University of Greenwich) and National Centre for Food Manufacturing (University of Lincoln) which is based in Kent Science Park.
Azhar’s dream is to create a food innovation centre in Northern Ireland. He says companies in Northern Ireland are beginning to realise the potential of vegan foods and have approached him about developing their own home-based products.
He added: “Why not come up with your own new foods rather than import them from other countries? This is the challenge ahead for the Northern Ireland food industry. There is more and more space being taken up on supermarket shelves by plant-based products and that is why companies are showing interest.”
Stephen Ellis, Innovation Manager at Innovation Factory said Born Maverick was a great example of a company looking at innovative ways to create new products aimed at improving people’s lives.
“Azhar is a born entrepreneur, inventor and innovator and it is very exciting to see him collaborating with companies throughout the world to come up with solutions to sustainable global food production. We are fully supportive of his plans to set up a food innovation centre in Northern Ireland,” he added.
Innovation Factory is owned by Belfast City Council and operated on their behalf by Oxford Innovation. The £9.1m business hub was funded by Belfast City Council and Invest NI with support from the European Regional Development Fund.
As well as providing jobs and developing entrepreneurship in West Belfast, the centre is dedicated to engaging with the local community through outreach programmes, education, and work placements.
Customers include a range of start-ups and growing businesses in a variety of sectors including digital services, creative industries, business services, financial services and research and development.
For more information on the Innovation Factory visit: www.innovationfactoryni.com