Cultured Meat and Future Food is a short-form podcast series discussing the role of plant based food, cultivated meat and food technology. The show is focused on asking industry leaders questions for an audience with a non-scientific background. Cultured Meat and Future Food is targeted towards entrepreneurs interested in the food technology space.

Doug McNish, Greg Potter, and Laura S. Hackl of ProFillet: Transforming the Future of Proteins

This episode is a part of the Transforming the Future of Proteins series, where we explore the work of XPRIZE Feed The Next Billion, a global incentivized competition that challenges innovators to reinvent alternative proteins.

On this episode, We’re excited to host Doug McNish, Greg Potter, and Laura S. Hackl, three of the members of Team ProFillet, to the show.

ProFillet is a collection of some of the world’s best minds who have come together to tackle one of the most pressing issues of our time: How do we Feed the Next Billion? The founders at ProFillet come from a variety of industries and have a range of talents: from professional kitchens, science and technology, to marketing, finance and operations. This diversity of perspectives and experiences allows the team to approach challenges from a variety of angles, leading to innovative solutions and better outcomes.

Alex (00:07):

Thanks for joining us on the Future Food Show. This episode is part of the transforming the Future of Proteins series, where we explore the work of xprize Feed the Next Billion, a global incentivized competition that challenges innovators to reinvent alternative proteins. On this episode, we’re excited to host Doug, Greg, and Laura, three of the members of Team ProFillet. ProFillet is a collection of some of the world’s best minds who have come together to tackle one of the most pressing issues of our time. How do we feed the next billion? The founders at Prole come from a variety of industries and have a range of talents from professional chefs, science and technology to marketing, finance, and operations. This diversity of perspectives and experiences allows the team to approach challenges from a variety of angles leading to innovative solutions and better outcomes. We’re chatting with three of the six team members today, learning about their backgrounds, pro folay, and ending on an inspiring note. Doug, Greg and Laura, I’d like to welcome you to the Future Food Show.

Doug (01:11):

Thanks for having us, my friend.

Laura (01:13):

Thanks for the invite.

Greg (01:14):

Nice to be here.

Alex (01:16):

We can start with Doug. Tell us a little bit about your background and really why we’re all here today.

Doug (01:22):

So, I am an entrepreneur and vegan chef, and I’ve been in the food world in some capacity or another for almost 25 years. So I’m showing my age. I’ve written three cookbooks, sorry, four cookbooks. Three of my books have been awarded Best Vegan Cookbook in the world. I’ve been able to hone my craft globally, lots of work in Europe and Australia abroad. But really during Covid, you know, as restaurant revenues went down, I really got into product development and prole came along and this has been a, a really awesome sort of journey so far. So what’s a little bit about me?

Alex (02:01):

Excellent. And Laura, you’re next on my screen. Do you wanna go ahead?

Laura (02:05):

Happy to. Thanks, Alex. My name is Laura and I am a scientist. Actually I’m a pharmacist by training, but I was not very happy with that and I was always interested in human nutrition and have been vegetarian for, I guess, more than 25 years now which is also giving away my age, I guess. And yeah, for me, my goals are really to improve nutrition for underserved populations and also creating plant-based alternatives and motivating folks to consume less animal products.

Alex (02:46):

Great. And Greg, go ahead.

Greg (02:49):

Yes, so my name is Greg Potter. I live in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, and I’m a fermentation and bioprocess scientist by training. I guess my first love was in beverage fermentation, and about six years ago I started working for a sustainable protein startup here locally in Halifax. And I kind of was awoken to the, the need for alternative protein forms. And so for the past six and a half years, I’ve worked broadly in the industry on, in different project areas focused on cell-based fish, cell-based meat bioreactor modeling, plant-based fish, and also consulting in the industry. And so right now I run a lot of projects through my own little consulting company called Lip Affirm Scientific. And I’ve been fortunate enough to align with these guys on this, on this new and exciting plant-based seafood project as well.

Alex (03:43):

Greg, you’re in, in Canada, where is everybody else dialing in from?

Doug (03:46):

I’m in the United States. I am Canadian originally, but I live just outside of Philadelphia now.

Laura (03:51):

I’m dialing in from Switzerland, but am originally from Austria,

Alex (03:56):

So. Okay. So this is really exciting because this is the one team that has made it to the XPRIZE finalist that is actually kind of a group of people that have come together. So tell me about, you know, how Pro Folay actually came together.

Doug (04:11):

Well, I could speak to that really briefly. It was almost two years ago actually that I received an email from TE Bio, which is a, a company in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. And they told me about the competition and they said they’d like to give it a shot, and I was on board a hundred percent from day one. And then it’s sort of, you know, things have fallen into place. As we’ve gone along. We, I worked with Laura on a previous project. She was amazing to work with. Greg is an expert in this field. And then along with Terra Bio, myself, Greg, and Laura came small food and that is, you know, one, certainly one of the hero ingredients and what we’re working on as it’s a micro algae. So that’s sort of how we all came to be. It was a pretty organic experience, if you will. And it’s, it’s been really fun so far.

Greg (05:02):

Small Food is a company based in Halifax, Nova Scotia or Halifax and the sort of greater Halifax region. It’s a company that makes wholesale protein powder from a marine produce, actually it is and it serves a number of industries, but is really kind of started to cater a lot of its focus to the vegan seafood industry lately. And it’s been around since 2018 and it’s was the brainchild of a serial entrepreneur successful one at that from Halifax. And his name is mark St. 

Laura (05:39):

As Greg that mentioned Stephen Ricardo de they are part of the company. Terra Bio Mark is one of the founders of small food.

Doug (05:51):

I think what really helps make us a unique team is our founders of Pro Folay come from a variety of industries and have a range of talents. So you know, everything from professional kitchens, technology, marketing, finance and operations. So, you know, one of the, one of the cool things about us is like the diversity of our perspectives and our experiences allows us to approach this challenge from a variety of angles. So it’s led us to a lot of innovative solutions and better outcomes that say like, you know, a traditional company with a C E O and a cfo, and it’s very top down and there’s direction from the top and everyone has to listen to that. And I think that our ours works because it’s very unique in a sense that it’s very democratic. You know, you have myself who’s you know, left brain, right brain thinking entrepreneur, but I come from kitchens.

Doug (06:39):

You have Steve and Ricardo who come from upcycling spent grains. You have Mark who is serial entrepreneur, but with this amazing microalgae Greg, fantastic food scientist and Laura with this brain of this wealth of knowledge of nutrition and feeding the world. So when we come together, it’s almost like Voltron, maybe I’m dating myself again saying Voltron, but you know, when we come together, we’re almost like this unstoppable force with all of this knowledge. And I sort of coined we sort of coined the term as Prolia is a collection of some of the world’s best minds who have come together to tackle one of the most pressing issues of our time. How do we feed the next billion?

Alex (07:19):

Okay, great. So, so that gives us a, a very good understanding of kind of like the team as a whole. I wanna now kind of ask about the product. So the audience is familiar with the challenge and you know, the, the idea of a whole cut piece of chicken or a whole cut piece of fish. What specifically is pro filet creating?

Doug (07:37):

I mean, I’ll speak really quickly to that. We are working on a whole cut piece of white fish and we are looking to match it nutritionally. There is a lot of products on the marketplace in terms of plant-based seafood that they look like the, you know, the traditional thing. They even taste, they’re getting much better, but they lack the protein, they lack the fatty acids, they lack the things that, you know, as human beings help us thrive. So our goal is to not only make something that is exceptional in taste, texture, and flavor, but is actually really nourishing for the human body.

Greg (08:12):

I can also add to that, you know, there’s a lot of companies or the number of companies in the space that have pretty advanced processing technologies. They’re trying to leverage to really recapitulate comp the complex sensory and textural attributes of conventional seafood. But from the very beginning, we were trying to do something that was more scalable and likely be, would be more cost effective and hopefully could better we could better leverage to actually feed the next billion people who will primarily be coming about in regions of the world, which won’t necessarily have the complex 3D printing and or other technological suites that are needed for, for the more high tech versions of plant-based seafood and meats. So that was really a part of our focus is something that would actually, would be, would be scalable from the get-go.

Alex (09:03):

Interesting. And I guess maybe this question is directed more towards Laura, but you know, when we think of fish and like the nutritional profile, you know, people think of omega-3 and, and other types of things, but can you tell us a little bit about why fish as a protein source is very nutritionally, I guess beneficial?

Laura (09:21):

Sure, I guess micro and macronutrient composition of fish is quite beneficial. And as you’ve mentioned, the omega threes is kind of what probably comes to mind first, but there are also some micronutrients that are really relevant, including iron and zinc. So it’s, it’s a great product nutritionally, but in terms of sustainability and, and feeding growing world population, it’s also needed to find alternatives while also acknowledging that it’s a cultural component to it as well. So, you know, while there are many people growing up, you know, maybe not eating those kind of products for various reasons, fish is a big cultural component in some societies. So providing an alternative that is sustainable, maybe that also has a better shelf stability and also food safety, because especially with fish in warmer countries, food safety is a huge issue that causes a lot of disease every year. So I guess the beauty of having this quote unquote alternative has many really important aspects that, you know, not not just eat less animals and that’s solving the problem. There, there are a lot of underlying issues that oftentimes are tend to be forgotten and yeah, especially I think World Food Safety Day was last week, so that’s also something I just wanted to highlight.

Alex (11:14):

No, that’s interesting. And, and I think applying kind of that thinking in terms of not just food safety and also I guess fish being part of the cuisine of, of a lot of different cultures, being able to say, we don’t just wanna reach a billion in demand, but we also wanna reach a billion in terms of scalability and food safety and that kind of thing, I think actually means a lot. Where is the main product being developed? Is there one central area where the main product physically is being developed?

Doug (11:46):

Well, I think what’s unique about us is our goal from the beginning was to keep this simple. We’re, we’re, we’re really active on social media, we’re active in the industry. We know that 3D printing, creating animals from cells, but our goal was to keep this kitchen ready. So the funny thing about what we did for the last year and a half was I, I developed it out of my apartment in Toronto <laugh>. So it was all from a food processor and a blender, and I would take videos and pictures every production run, and I would upload them to, to the Google Drive, and we would have discussions and meetings and calls and, you know, I would taste and give my feedback and, and that’s sort of how we operated and, and it worked. It, it’s pretty cool because again, our goal from the beginning was to keep this really simple because our thinking is if we keep it simple now, it’s gonna be easier to scale. And, and, you know, and then we won’t have something that costs $5,000 to produce a four ounce piece of, of salmon or whatnot. And now as we look to scale as we’re, we’re talking to other third party suppliers, we’re trying to keep those same principles true and keeping it really simple and, and as easy as possible, and it’s working pretty excited.

Alex (12:59):

I like that. And if anybody ha has an excuse that they don’t have like a commercial kitchen to start experimenting, maybe this is your wake up call <laugh>.

Doug (13:07):

Oh, I think that’s entrepreneurship in a nutshell is like that. And I think there’s always an excuse to not do something, but the true successful people in life, in my opinion, just do it. And you figure out how to do it, and if you mess up, that’s fine. Do it again.

Alex (13:20):

Now, when I think of different applications for fish, whether it’s, you know, battered and fried or, or themed or, or whatever it may be I always think about the layers. So I guess one burning question I have is, are those layers in, in the product example where, you know, you take a fork through the, the whole cut of fish and do you see layers in early prototypes?

Greg (13:42):

I can quickly start, and I would welcome everybody else to chime in to say that our, our sort of solution in the first phase at the, at the kitchen scale has achieved a vibration, but the layering and the alignment of the vibration is not entirely there yet. And so what we believe is that we have a, a highly nutritious and cost effective solution. And just today and in the past week, we’ve really started to try and align ourselves with the next pilot scale partner that will help us to improve upon our layering our vibration and our texture formation. And, and we think that the next year of solution development will be pivotal and hopefully get us to that point where, you know, you could put your fork through the product and know, have that nice flaky layering appearance.

Alex (14:36):

Cool. And so I’ll ask about XPRIZE and the overall prize in just a second, but I guess from an organization, or I should say consortium standpoint, you know, what is really the next step for ProFillet? You know, you’ve mentioned different partners, is the next step to be able to get it to some sort of large scale production or maybe is there another next step?

Doug (15:00):

I mean, I would say the next step is to make it taste good, <laugh>, sorry, I know that’s a, a broad reaching statement, but no, I think our next step right now, as I said earlier, the goal is to get to the nutritional levels we need to get to while still keeping it really tasty. And, and, and in my opinion, through all of this, that has been the most challenging aspect of this. We had a sample from about a year ago. It was fantastic. It was, I would put that on any restaurant menu across the world, but it was only five grams of protein in a serving. And you know, that’s roughly a quarter of where we need to get to. So I think that’s the next step. And, and you know, again, we’re a great team because we’re looking at every single aspect as we grow this, we’re not just looking at protein, we’re not just looking at fat or we’re looking at the cost, the environmental footprint, even to a certain degree, the amino acid profile, Greg is a brilliant mind and he’s been able to break down the amino acid profile, our animal origin source.

Doug (15:59):

So we are doing our best to try and match that as we progress as well. So it’s definitely a multi a multi disciplinary vision as we go. It’s fun. Sometimes it’s hard, sometimes we laugh and cry. Sometimes I text Greg at the end of the day and say, I can’t even think straight. But I have high hopes. And I, you know, I think we have, we truly, we truly, truly have a really good chance at, at winning this competition.

Alex (16:22):

Whether your team pro folate does win the 15 million prize or not how has XPRIZE really amplified what the team is, is doing?

Greg (16:34):

I, I can start by saying that you know, because we’re a distributed team, we’ve been able to operate pretty leanly and cost effectively for, for quite a while. And you know, operating at a people’s homes with minimal amount of resources and, and really kind of do things on the fly and on the cheap, but nonetheless do things well, you know, so I think this, this next amount of money that we get for the finals round to start is really enabling us to be more focused, to commit more time and energy into our, our solution development. And I think what will come out of this for us, if we do if we do get the money is that it’ll really change the course of what we’re, of what we’re trying to do with this project in terms of reach, it’s not just a vision anymore for something that will do good in the world, but will actually have the opportunity to produce material and to drive positive impact. And I think that, you know, a lot of people get into this field because we have aspirations to make money, but I think for, you know, for a lot of us, we are aligned with the, the social purpose and the desire to create positive impact and, and positive change in the world. So

Alex (17:49):

Laura, I’m gonna put you on the spot, so maybe you can go first. What does success look like and how many years will it take to get there?

Laura (17:57):

To me personally, what success will look like is to create a product, to have an idea that’s scalable, to actually feed the next billion. I’ve, you know, dedicated my career more or less to improving nutrition outcomes for especially individuals in low and middle income countries. And regardless of what happens with the Proli project, this will be my, you know, my goal and my vision for whatever comes next. And I hope that Proli will make a contribution to this personal goal of mine in terms of how long it will take. That’s, you know, I think given the big advances in technology and how fast things are moving, it can go very fast. You know, we have this kind of about 12 months ahead of us that we will spend on the development phase. And from there, I do believe that it can go rather quickly, not, not just because we will maybe be at the final, final stage of the product, but also because it will hopefully provide us with some more reach and ways to collaborate to scale it up.

Alex (19:32):

Great. And I, and I love that. And in many ways, maybe you could already say that the impact has, has already made a success, right?

Laura (19:39):

Absolutely. Yeah. I, I totally agree,

Alex (19:43):


Greg (19:44):

For me, success looks like we’ve created a product, it’s received some regulatory approval, it’s actually generating revenues, and I’ve been able to witness something from total, like from scratch conception into his starting to generate revenue and, and positive impact. And, and hopefully it becomes you know, a manifestation of, you know, at least for myself and for Doug and the other entrepreneurs in the group doing something from scratch and actually, you know, make making some sort of money at it. And and I think in terms of how long it will take I, we are taking, we’re taking, looking at this problem right now from the lens of really trying to survey the landscape of technologies that are out there today, functioning at scale, that co-manufacturers are already using to make sure that as we choose the next processing technology that will improve upon our product, that it’s something that is gonna be able to be rolled out into the market as soon as possible. So, so we’re, we’re envisioning, you know, something within the next year to two years to, to maybe three years at, at the, at the long end of the timeline where we hope that we’ll have something that consumers will be able to readily consume and it will sort of start to generate revenue for the project and for the group.

Alex (21:19):

Excellent. And, and Doug,

Doug (21:21):

My version of success is, is you know, I, I got into this a long time ago as a, as a 20 year old cook and you know, my version of success has always been change. And, you know, whether it was serving sandwiches at a cafe in Toronto 20 years ago to doing what I do now, you know, I think being on a world stage and being able to really help shape future generations, to me that’s success. I know maybe it’s abstract. Money comes, money goes milestones come, milestones go. But I really think being able to spark change on, on a huge level like this, to me that’s success timeline. I guess. I can’t really be abstract about that necessarily, I think two or three years to be realistic. I think not if we win when we win, it’ll take another two or three years after that. I think we need to be realistic about the business world and how long things take. And this isn’t just a Toronto thing or an LA thing, or a New York thing. This is a global thing. So Laura and Greg, there’s a lot more airplane rides coming up, a lot more discussions. And Alex we’ll be talking to you in a year after we win, my friend.

Alex (22:31):

I love it. And what, what I love even more is that, you know, nobody said, you know what? I think 10 years from now we’ll serve our, your, our billionth filet or anything like that. It’s happening and it’s happening now. That’s great. Are there any last insights that any of you have for our listeners today?

Laura (22:48):

I think I would like to echo Doug who said, you just do it. I think if you have a vision, if you have an idea, if you have a passion for positive change, you have to start somewhere. And, you know, like three years ago, I would’ve never thought that, you know, we would be competing in a competition like this and actually make it to the finals. And, you know, fast forwarding a few years from now, you know, we don’t know what, what will be possible, but we do know that whatever change we start to create now will hopefully positively impact future us and future generations.

Doug (23:35):

I just think don’t be scared. Don’t be scared to screw up. Don’t be scared to screw up. Don’t be scared to make mistakes. This is how we learn. This is the best way to learn. You know, people wait for the right time to start a business or, or create a piece of plant-based fish or have a child or whatever it is in life, just try it. If you screw up, it’s okay. Cause you learn. One of my favorite quotes from ne Nelson Mandela is, you know, he sat in a prison cell for, for 20 plus years. It’s, we don’t lose. We either win or we learn. And I think that’s one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received in my life. So just get started.

Greg (24:09):

I, I would just say just to, to anybody who’s curious about, about the field that you should you know, you should pursue that curiosity and, you know, proceed ahead with an open mind and and also to be patient, you know, and, and thoughtful, right? And and that if you just keep at what you’re doing, like, and you, and you keep just, you know, doing your best and working hard and you know, being opportunistic when things present themselves that you know in, you know, in the end with time that like, you know, you’ll start to align yourself with the right people the right projects and things will, opportunities will just start to unfold. And so it’s really to just to be patient, you know, to be kind, to be conscious and, and to sort of like, you know, move forward with, with purpose and with passions.

Alex (24:56):

You can learn more about Profillet at Their information will also be in the show notes. Laura, Doug, Greg, I thank you so much for being on the show.

Laura (25:08):

Thanks so much for having us. It was a great pleasure.

Doug (25:12):

Yeah, thank you my friend. And thank you for all you’re doing to amplify what people are doing because, you know, we are, are, we are risk takers. We’re ahead of our time in my opinion, and it’s nice to have a, a voice to, to speak to this. So thank you so much.

Alex (25:25):

This is your host, Alex, and we look forward to seeing you on our next episode.

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