15 FEBRUARY 2022

Welcome to MycoTalk's new section - Employee highlights, where you can see us - everyone who makes up Mycorena, real work and life. Our guest today is Fredrik Steen, Pilot Plant Manger from our Gothenburg office.

 

Hi Fredrik, what is your role at Mycorena?

My role is pilot plant manager, which means taking care of the production. Suppling the sales department, product development and R&D with what they need.
For example, we help provide the products the sales team send to customers. If they need a particular type of Promyc to experiment with, we will supply that. For R&D, we do more technical work, like testing equipment and process improvements. In my view, we are like a foundation, a supplier inside the company. We create the products for everyone else to work with.

 

What are the challenges in your job role?

I think because we are producing something new, we must come up with a lot of our own solutions, there is a lot of trial and error. We must be creative and find new ways of doing things, maybe use types of equipment traditionally used for something else.  Plus, we can be required to meet deadlines, which can be quite hard and challenging, but it also makes it a lot of fun!

 

How are you innovative in your work? What solutions have you come up with to solve problems?

We are thinking very functionally about what we want to come up with and then trying to get results. We try to find solutions to reach end results a bit quicker. One advantage of this is now that we are developing a bigger facility, we already have a lot of experience in how our product behaves, and what potential problems can occur. Having come so far on a small scale, we’ve already gained so much useful information. We have also got a lot of feedback from our bigger suppliers. I think it’s very valuable that we have this kind of information, it helps us improve these products, they are quite impressed with our adaptability. The production and supply chain going from raw materials to the finished product is extremely short at Mycorena. We can decide to produce new products and then have them finished the same week, it’s extremely fast. Having this very short loop is very beneficial, we can produce the product and then see what happens and evaluate it to do another experiment. If we want to supply products to a customer, we have a much shorter time span we need for planning, we can move a lot quicker than others.


Can you tell me a bit of your previous work experience before joining Mycorena?

I worked in a similar company; Simris Alg in Skåne, I moved down there and lived there for five and a half years. It was also a start-up, but instead of a fungi biomass, we worked with algae biomass. I started at that company when it was quite small in production capacity; we had only two small bioreactors of 2,000 litres each.
I was part of building up this factory to the full scale, which was 120,000 litres. For comparison, the one in our Falkenburg facility will be 150,000 litres, so it was quite a big facility. I was part of the team running this facility for three years, I worked with the laboratory and quality.

 

What makes you want to work with this kind of innovative food technology?

Well, when I saw Mycorena, I was thinking, wow, this is in a very similar phrase, but with a completely different product. I could join and learn something completely new to advance myself, but there are still enough similarities that my experience can be a good use to the company. I think I can contribute a lot of ideas from how I have done things before and there are completely new things to learn, I think that's a very nice combination.

 

How do you imagine mycoprotein in future, what will it bring to the world?

I think it's very interesting to think about these kinds of products, we are not just copying meat and you can use it for many other things.
I recently saw articles about a company that does mycelium leather. It's a bit limiting to only think of it as a meat replacement; there are so many other things that you can create as well. The interesting thing is that by getting very good at producing the main basic biomass, we could make all kinds of products!
I’m sure we will accidentally discover some very interesting, completely different products, maybe not even food, I think it's very cool. You don't have to be bound to what you started with. Here at Mycorena, they started with food for pets and fish feed. I think that characteristic in the company is very exciting.

 

How many people are in your team?

It's four people directly involved in production: Alfred, Axel, Aaron and Tom. We have two process operators and two process engineers; we also collaborate with the R&D team. Our R&D work is planned together with them, they run the first few steps inside our inoculation lab. They do a lot of work-related to production and help with checking out the microscopes, microbiology, fermentation and other topics as they are experts in that area. Lara is the laboratory manager, she knows about the laboratory, which is very important for the production.

 

Do you like working in the food industry?

Yeah! It's a lot of fun! I didn't really have an opinion on it before, but after working on it more it's very interesting! I got surprised when I studied biotechnology not many people talked about the food industry side because there are so many other interesting options. The food industry should get into the schools and talk about it more and promote this education. We can help improve the sustainability of food production, it can be improved in many ways, it's a very interesting field. It’s cross-disciplinary because there is the technology part of it with processes and automated systems, but then there's so much biology, with nutrition and what to use like plants or mycelium.

 

Let's talk a little bit about you! What do you do when you're not at work?

I exercise a lot and I'm very interested in science and history. I also like gaming, mostly strategy games or RPG games. Then, I go out quite a lot to pubs and restaurants with my friends, tasting different types of beer and finding new food places. I used to do home brewing, making my own beer, but I haven't done it recently, unfortunately. I like music a lot. I don't play much now, but I used to play the Piano. I also paint a little bit, you can check out my work!

Fredrik’s painting work

 

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