In Slovenia, I cannot be a student, a co-founder, a shareholder and a CEO without losing all my student benefits. So, for now, I'm Maj Hrovat, Head of R&D at Bevo.
Long before the Climathon, my classmate and I developed an idea for applying circular economy to protein-enriched food production. As two biotechnologists, we often discussed how one could grow mushroom mycelia and use fermentation to enrich foods.
Though biotechnology can be linked to food, it’s not the hard-core biotechnology that a young, aspiring biotechnologist is likely to pursue. I had my career pathway settled in a sense. I really loved the field of synthetic biology–especially, the more academic side of it...logic circuits, cells, things like that.
In late 2018, I had met some Erasmus students and there was a girl from Lithuania, in particular, who I really liked. She had attended a few hackathons before and suggested that we participate in the Ljubljana Climathon.
I dragged my classmate along with me.
I really liked the atmosphere at Climathon–it was all about innovation! I can say that it was my first true hackathon. You got the feeling that your ideas actually matter and that people want to hear about your solutions to real-life problems.
“Once I understood the impact that innovations in this field could bring to our planet, I really fell in love.”
Our challenge focused on reducing greenhouse gas emissions from livestock farming. Using biotechnology for production is a big part of the circular economy. But until then, I wasn’t aware of the meat industry’s impact on greenhouse gas emissions. Speaking percentages, it accounts for 14% of all emissions.
Once I understood the impact that innovations in this field could bring to our planet, I really fell in love. I felt challenged enough to pursue solutions in food production because it still involved the chemistry and molecular view of biology.
At the competition, we pitched a technology to produce very realistic and tasty meat alternatives. The solution ended up winning first place; it was an awesome feat to make an environmental impact on the beef industry.
That was just the beginning.
We’ve since upgraded our solution after researching the field and receiving advice from large American companies who are working in the core technologies and producing meat analogues. We have big ambitions to accelerate plant-based food production on a global scale.
“We have big ambitions to accelerate plant-based food production on a global scale.”
Last year our team even founded a company, Bevo d.o.o., in order to commercialize the first plant-based burger in Slovenia. We are now developing technology for texturizing plant proteins that will allow anyone with our hardware to produce realistic, fibrous plant-based steaks in their own kitchen.
I plan on graduating in June and continuing with Bevo. If we get into a good accelerator, I will likely hold off on a master's degree. The CEO title will probably come later–once we get some further funding. Our focus is to solve the massive challenge of reducing CO2 and CH4 emissions by providing a highly nutritional, affordable meat alternative.
Every start-up solves a problem and this particular problem was presented to us through Climathon.
If we had not attended the competition, it could be that we would have focused on a different area. And it’s possible that we would not be able to find the same success.
Climathon is the crucial part of our story and we are happy to be here today. I always recommend it to all my friends.
At the very worst, the food is awesome.
At the very best, you can potentially end up with your own start-up.