Farm Animals, the Looming Unemployment Crisis: Woolly mammoth burgers, honey without the bees, milk without the cow, leather without the skin

August 11, 2022 |

Years ago, a guy named Art Baker hosted a show called You Asked for it, readers would write in from all over the country asking for things they wanted to see re-created on television. I’m pretty sure no one ever asked Art for a woolly mammoth burger. Ah, the times we live in. It’s coming to the point where we have to consider the looming unemplopyment wave for farm animals. I mean, what are cows going to do. What about chickens, bees, lambs, pigs, fish. It’s back to the wild kingdom you go, thanks for all the meat, milk, clothing, and materials.

Goes to show, you never get bored in this business. Just when you think everything has been invented, along come these woolly mammoth burgers, from a company known as Paleo. Is that really a good idea? Not sure, probably depends on the taste, but definitely bringing back woolly mammoth meat without actually bringing back the whole mammoth just so it can go through extinction all over again, sounds like a good enough idea. So, you paleo-dieters, enjoy this story line as part of the Weird and Compelling World of Renewables.

Caveman diet: Wooly mammoth burgers could soon be on the menu

In Belgium, a meat alternative startup is expanding its product R&D efforts from the more conventional beef, chicken, pork and lamb varieties to wooly mammoths burgers.

Paleo says it has been able to make a new protein by analyzing DNA of woolly mammoths, which roamed the earth from the Pleistocene era—over 2 million years ago—to as recently as 12,000 years ago.

“I know that it’s a bit more exotic,” Paleo CEO Hermes Sanctorum told Food Dive. “I can imagine that not everyone is really into trying something like that. But at least we can show also that we are able to produce something less obvious.” He added that wooly mammoth meat is “more meaty” than what we eat today.
The news comes shortly after Colossal Biosciences announced plans to try and bring wooly mammoths back to life using CRISPR. Colossal says reintroducing the elephant ancestor to the Arctic could prevent permafrost melting.

And, if there’s meat without the mammoth, why not honey without the bee? I suppose what the world needs now is probably pollination without the bee — but anything we can do to free bees up from producing our honey and getting out and making our fruit frees fruitful and multiplying, why that’s a good idea. Company is also making salt with out the salt and milk from peas, so give Fooditive credit for pace and ambition.

Show me the honey: Start up developing bee-free route

In the Netherlands, Fooditive has begun developing bee-free honey using DNA from honey and fermentation enzymes. The company says its faux honey has the same taste, texture and color as the real thing, and trials are set to begin next year.

Being a “busy bee” of a company, honey is just the start for Fooditive. The company says the process it used to develop honey could be used to make any animal product. It is also advancing a table salt alternative from citric acid and potassium chloride that is lower in sodium and better for the environment, as well as vegan casein for improved alternative cheeses. This is all in additional to already-launched products such as a sweetener made from apples and pears and a milk alternative made from peas.

“We feel like the next chapter of this journey has just begun. With the support from our shareholders, clients, partners and our team we are focused to increase our impact and make a fundamental change in the industry,” said Moayad Abushokhedim, founder of Fooditive.

Milk, perhaps the oldest of cultivated products from domesticated animals — they probably made cheese for reasons of storage, but milk was the intermediate. Yet, it’s been the subject of more start-ups and tech innovation than almost any other major food product. Now, there’s a contender from Down Under.

Cultivated milk startup raises $25 million

In Australia, cultivated milk and plant-based protein startup All G Foods has raised $25 million in a Series A financing

Led by Agronomics Limited and its affiliate investment vehicle New Agrarian Company, the funding is part of an oversubscribed round that will accelerate commercialization of both cellular agriculture and plant-based products in All G Foods’ portfolio.

“We could not be happier with Agronomics leading our Series A round due to their wealth of experience in funding the cellular agriculture sector,” says All G Foods founder and CEO Jan Pacas. “When looking for investment it is critical for us that our investors share our vision for developing technology that can change the way we impact the plant through categories that are simply not sustainable as our populations grow. We are confident with investors like this, we can accelerate our commercialization objectives and lead food innovation in Asia-Pacific.”

Let’s not forget leather without the cow, or BASF without the petroleum, if the shoe fits. This story from Germany caught our eye as BASF touted its’ focus on the mainstream shoe market.

Design house and German chemical giant team up for sustainable shoe

In Germany, chemical maker BASF has announced a collaboration in which design house Maddy Plant developed a concept shoe made entirely from BASF sustainable materials.

Dubbed MADGAMMA – Intertekk Saturn, the shoes use biobased Elastollan® polyurethane in the midsoles, shanks, and outsoles. The shoe also features an upper made from 100% recyclable monofilament fiber Freeflex™ PU. Freeflex TPU elastic fiber is used as an alternative to dry spandex for its soft stretch performance.

“The concept shoe features our winning ideas to make footwear sustainable and at the same time high performing. Our ambition is to bring these advanced technologies into mainstream footwear production,” says Minli Zhao, Vice President, Consumer Industry, Asia Pacific, BASF Performance Materials.
Maddy Plant is a footwear-focused design house that hopes to “arouse the public’s thinking about wearing technology through shoes and at the same time pay attention to how technology can be used in it while exploring the infinite possibilities of shoes in the future together with consumers.”

Four other industrial investment and partnership stories caught our eye. CJ Bio’s on the move again via a deal with the Accor hotel chain. Genecis Bioindustries raised some dough (can we say that?) in Canada for bioplastics. The Clean Food Group is aiming at a substitute for palm oil — better tell Zero Acre Farms. And those who have kept their eyes on the fermentation capacity squeeze will take heart in a story from Singapore that DM and Asia Sustainable Foods Platform inaugurated their ScaleUp Bio Joint Venture to add fermentation capacity at the aptly-named Biopolis on the south-west side of the island kinda sorta on the road from the city to Jurong East.

“One-stop shop” precision fermentation CDMO launched in Singapore

In Singapore, agribusiness major ADM and Asia Sustainable Foods Platform have inaugurated their ScaleUp Bio Joint Venture, which will provide contract development and manufacturing operations for precision fermentation for food applications.

ScaleUp Bio already has a multi-year partnership with A*STAR’s Singapore Institute of Food and Biotechnology Innovation to establish a joint lab focused on precision fermentation. Scheduled to be operational in the first quarter of 2023, the joint lab will be situated within the Food Tech Innovation Centre at Biopolis. It will provide start-ups with fermenters that can support up to 100-L in capacity, associated downstream processing units and relevant testing, as well as analytical equipment for full optimization.

Upon maturity of their growth cycle, start-ups can seamlessly transition to ScaleUp Bio’s new facility, which can further support up to 10,000-L fermentation capacity. Located in the Tuas district, the facility will be wholly owned and operated by ScaleUp Bio and is targeted to be operational by mid-2023.

Singapore, a land-scarce country, has been at the forefront of food tech. Mathys Boeren, CEO of the Asia Sustainable Foods Platform says in a press statement that the JV is a “one-stop shop… to help food start-ups address pain points for food-tech businesses, such as long wait-times for pilot-scale facilities and equipment; the lack of deep product and process development capabilities; and the difficulty in navigating regulatory processes and understanding unfamiliar markets in other parts of Asia.”

Canadian bioplastic maker raises $10M

In Ontario, Genecis Bioindustries Inc. has raised $7 million in Series A funding led by Khosla Ventures and BDC Capital’s Cleantech Practice. The round includes participation from Gullspang Re:food, with returning investors such as AME Cloud Ventures, IT Farm, and Heinz Group. Genecis has also secured a $3 million credit facility from Silicon Valley Bank, subject to customary closing conditions.

A graduate of the prestigious Y Combinator incubator program in Silicon Valley, Genecis manufactures compostable polyhydroxyalkanoates plastics from low-cost food waste.

The investment will accelerate the market launch of Genecis’ first set of products and enable the company to complete the first integration of its technology with the StormFisher biogas plant in London, Canada.

Startup eyes 2023 for palm oil alternative launch

In the United Kingdom, a startup developing fermentation-based alternatives to palm oil hopes to begin sales in 2023.

Palm oil is used across numerous products in food, cosmetics, and biofuels, but despite being renewable it is often linked to extensive deforestation and further threat to endangered species. Despite this, the palm oil market is forecast to grow over 5% annually through 2030.

“Our dependence on palm oil comes at a great environmental cost,” says Christopher Chuck, Professor of Bioprocess Engineering at University of Bath, where the technology originated. Chuck now serves as Group Technical Advisor to Clean Food Group, which is bringing the process to market using lignocellulosic waste as feedstock.

Clean Food Group recently closed a £1.65 million (US$2.0 million) funding round, led by cellular ag investment group Agronomics. The company says its palm oil alternative can replace conventional palm oil in all the products it is used in today. The company is also optimistic that it can sell its alternative at competitive pricing.

Major hotel chains tap CJ Bio for bioplastics

In Massachusetts, bioplastics producer CJ Bio says it has signed a memorandum of understanding with hospitality giant Accor—owner of such brands as ibis, Sofitel, and Novotel—to develop biodegradable packaging material based on polyhydroxyalkanoates for hotel amenities that use single-use plastics.

The MOU will help Accor deliver on its commitment to phase out all single-use plastic items from its hotels by the end of 2022. Headquartered in France, Accor operates more than 5,000 hotels in 100 countries. The first products will be trialed at its Korea hotels and eventually expanded throughout Asia-Pacific and globally.

“We are committed to a sustainable future, and we actively investigate and implement solutions that help to address the environmental challenges that we all face. We believe PHA is the right solution to help us achieve our goal,” says Vincent Lelay, Vice President Operations AccorHotels Korea.
CJ BIO has started producing amorphous PHA at its manufacturing facility in Pasuruan, Indonesia, and plans to increase production to meet expected demand.

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