Tootie’s Tempeh wants to turn its novel technology for making soy-based tempeh without using single-use plastic into a patent, a complicated process its owner hopes to pursue with help from a new entrepreneur program offered to Maine’s food industry. Kate Musser, production manager, with the soybeans they use to make tempeh in the Biddeford production facility. Michele McDonald/Photo Editor

From sustainably made tempeh to salmon bioproducts, some Maine-based food technology companies are coming together to learn innovative ways to boost efficiency and grow their businesses.

They are meeting at FoodTech Maine, a business accelerator program supporting Maine-based agricultural, aquacultural and food industries, launched by the Maine Center for Entrepreneurs and FocusMaine.

Among the inaugural class are a Biddeford tempeh business bent on pursuing a patent for its innovative technology; a maker of 3D-printed hydroponic shellfish tanks in Topsham that is ready to grow; and a Brunswick company that converts salmon biowaste into usable medical products and needs marketing help.

“Food tech has the application of technology – innovation, science, biology – as applied to the existing value chain for food,” FoodTech Maine Program Manager Jason Mitchell said. “We are seeking out early-stage to midsize companies that leverage that type of niche with technology as it applies to the food value chain.”

The six-month program plans to work with eight to 12 food tech companies across the state starting this fall, encouraging them to grow their company’s reach and improve efficiency by connecting with and tapping into the expertise of other Maine companies and community partners like the Maine Technology Institute to further develop their business models and expand their reach.

Beyond directly connecting with community partners, the program will offer hands-on opportunities to work on professional plans to achieve long-term attainable development goals. The program will culminate in an event with local food business entrepreneurs and investors where participating companies can discuss the progress they made through the program.


FoodTech Maine is accepting applications for its inaugural group through mid-September. Companies are expected to pay $750 to enroll in the program.

The soybeans used to make tempeh, after they are husked and halved. Tootie’s Tempeh uses locally sourced soybeans in their product line, which is manufactured in Biddeford.  Michele McDonald/Photo Editor

So far, five companies have been accepted into the program, seeking a range of help and resources.

Tootie’s Tempeh is a locally sourced tempeh producer out of Biddeford that says it is the only plastic-free tempeh producer in the U.S. The Tootie’s Tempeh team developed a way to replace the disposable plastic bag commonly used in tempeh fermentation to make the process more environmentally sustainable. Now it wants to patent that process.

“That became our way of really establishing our values but also differentiating our product. Lo and behold we did succeed in developing this new process, and it actually tastes way better,” Tootie’s Tempeh co-founder Sarah Speare said. The company is also working on eliminating plastic in its packaging.

Tootie’s Tempeh wants to turn its technology for making tempeh without using single-use plastic into a patent. Michele McDonald/Photo Editor

During its stint with the FoodTech program, the company seeks to patent its production process and build up its production facilities in Maine. The company currently sources all of its soybeans from local farmers, and it intends to expand. When it does, Speare wants to model new locations on this locally based system and the plastic-free fermentation process.

“Because of our dedication to sourcing locally, we are also a worker-owned co-op. We want to expand by having co-op production facilities regionally around the country with each one sourcing locally. So wherever anyone buys Tootie’s Tempeh, they know they are supporting their local farmers, workers and communities,” Speare said.


Growth is also top of mind for Muddy River Farm Aquaponics. Matt Nixon founded the company over five years ago when he started creating the first prototypes of the “Oyster Pod,” a modular, 3D-printed hydroponic tank designed specifically for shellfish. Based in Topsham, Muddy River works with the University of Maine to produce these tanks more efficiently and is looking to grow the business more.

Muddy River works with local shellfish farmers to allow continued production during the typically dormant winter months through temperature-controlled aquaponics, allowing producers to work all year. Muddy Rivers is moving into a larger facility in Bath and through the FoodTech program aims to expand its operations to more shellfish companies in the coming years.

“Just being around people that have gone through the same types of issues that I have, experienced the same types of raising capital problems that I have and also have a similar mindset in that we can’t just do business as usual anymore,” Nixon said. “We need to buckle down and start thinking about new ways to maintain our coastal communities that are dependent on these types of resources. This type of innovation is just one small piece of that puzzle.”

Salmonics is a Brunswick-based biotech company that works with aquaculture salmon producers to harvest salmon blood waste and develop research, veterinary and medical bioproducts. By repurposing this salmon farming byproduct, Salmonics aims to eliminate unneeded biowaste and provide an alternative fish-derived bioproduct that is not widely offered otherwise.

Through this program, Salmonics intends to grow its sales and marketing efforts, focusing on expanding its reach in Maine and throughout the U.S. Currently, its products are sold around the world, but as the company continues to develop new products, CEO and President Cem Giray hopes to continue developing its marketing strategy.

“I come from a science background. I’m not a salesman, so there’s a lot I need to learn. That’s why the FoodTech Maine program was so attractive to us because it’s focusing on commercialization and market development, proving market data and resources,” Giray said.

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