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fo od fig h t
Milk without the cow, meatless burgers that bleed,
chicken and shrimp made from plant matter, and
now foie gras without a ...
lucky enough to try it. Backed by the world’s
leading biotech accelerators and impact investors
including ...
$40 per gram and we plan to reduce this to just a
few cents per gram over the next five years,” says
If consumer acceptance does proves to be as
smooth sailing as the market currently suggests,
there are sev...
affordable and scalable options for the consumer
can successfully come together, will it get the
With global population growth, water scarcity and the desire for food
security high on the list of political concerns, the...
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Fight of the century rosie bosworth


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A fresh voice in a crowded landscape, Dr Rosie Bosworth is a strategic innovation consultant and communications professional with a penchant for driving competitive business growth through disruptive innovation and game changing technology platforms. With over 6 years consulting experience in business innovation, a PhD in disruptive sustainable innovation and technology development, and a background in marketing and account management, Rosie harbours a rare breadth of skills and competencies vital for helping firms thrive in today's dynamic and rapidly changing business landscape.

Milk without the cow, meatless burgers that bleed, chicken and shrimp made from plant matter, and now foie gras without a force-fed goose in sight. A new food revolution enabled by science and biotech is brewing and, if it succeeds, animals will have little to do with the future of food. For some, that future looks rosy, but, as Dr. Rosie Bosworth writes, the implications for New Zealand’s agricultural sector could be less than palatable.

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Fight of the century rosie bosworth

  1. 1. fo od fig h t
  2. 2. Milk without the cow, meatless burgers that bleed, chicken and shrimp made from plant matter, and now foie gras without a force-fed goose in sight. A new food revolution enabled by science and biotech is brewing and, if it succeeds, animals will have little to do with the future of food. For some, that future looks rosy, but, as Dr. Rosie Bosworth writes, the implications for New Zealand’s agricultural sector could be less than palatable. EATING SMARTER Also referred to as“lab”,“cultured” or“clean meat” (or“Frankenmeat” by the sceptics who can’t envisage this future), cellular agriculture is the production of agricultural products from cell cultures to harvest almost any kind of agricultural product, or food and beverage for which we currently need a sentient being (or plant) for. It’s complex and it draws on processes including DNA (genome) cell sequencing, tissue engineering, cultures and microbial science. From cow-less milk, cattle-less beef, grape- less wine and hen-less chicken and eggs, to silk, gelatin, bleeding plant burgers, fish and even rhino horn, it seems no stone remains unturned in the world of cellular agriculture.And over the past three years an increasing wave of smart synbio startups across Silicon Valley, Israel and Europe, including Memphis Meats, Mosa Meats, Super Meat, Finless Foods, Clara Foods and Ava Wines have rapidly honed in on the space. Mosa Meat’s lab grown beef patty made from beef animal muscle cells debuted in London in 2013 with a hefty $330,000 price tag. It was the first cellular agriculture product bringing“clean meat” to the main stage and was developed at the University of Masstrict. Replicating only muscle tissue cells in petri dishes, Mosa Meat’s world-first lab made patty was a bit dry for some people’s liking. San Francisco startup, Memphis Meats has since addressed this with the launch of the world’s first sizzling – and much juicier – clean meatball in 2016. This is grown from a variety of pig fat and muscle cells to achieve the more fatty texture.And it was a thumbs up for the taste for those We humans love to romanticise things – and we particularly like to romanticise our food.When you think about that juicy burger at lunch, last night’s curry or this morning’s breakfast berry smoothie, it’s all too easy for us to imagine a happy cow called Daisy who spends her days roaming across lush rolling hills with her young nearby, leaping lambs, happy hens frolicking in the fields, and trusting, caring farmers, who lovingly ply their trade the old-fashioned way – tractor, straw hat and pitch fork in hand. In New Zealand, a nation built on the export of food, this is the kind of idyllic image we want to portray to the world. But the reality of industrialised food production is far less romantic and, if you believe the proponents, technology, science and biotech are starting to turn the industry on its head and bring about some very meaty changes. According to San Francisco online investment marketplace company,AgFunder, global agtech investment surged from a paltry US$400 mlllion in 2010, to $3.2 billion in 2016, and today there are at least 4,000 early stage technology startups all out to disrupt the US$7.8 trillion global food system. Farm management software and analytics, food traceability technologies, indoor farming systems (think high rise or container farms), robotics (including NZ’s Robotics Plus and Compac) and plant microbiome technology (think probiotics for seeds and crops) are all examples of the many technology categories lapping up investor interest in the world of agriculture, spurring the transformation of the farm, and what some have dubbed the“next green revolution”. But perhaps the most influential emerging technology of all, making its foray into the world of food with the potential to revolutionise the very notion of agriculture as we know it, and in ways that we’ve never seen before, is synthetic biology.With applications across nearly every industry sector including healthcare, energy and industrial chemicals and agriculture, synthetic biology (also dubbed“synbio”) is the use of advances in chemistry, biology, computer science and engineering to create new biological systems and products including microbes that produce biofuel, milk or animal proteins, or immune cells and therapeutics geared toward attacking a specific type of cancer. Touted by global venture capital database CB Insights as one of the next game-changing technologies this coming decade, synbio is booming – and the stats prove it. In the last five years, funding to private synthetic biology startups has more than tripled, and in 2016 alone, an estimated US$1.3 billion was invested into pioneering synthetic biology startups. More than half of this was channelled into companies revolutionising the food and beverage (F&B) and agriculture categories.“Cellular agriculture” or“cultured” food (an offshoot of synbio) in particular, has been receiving a rich dollop of funding in the last 18 months and the lion’s share of media headlines around the world.And not in the cultured acidophilus yoghurt, trendy kombucha or kefir way. But due to its newfound capabilities and potential to revolutionise the global food system – and especially animal agriculture. Instead of domesticating animals, synbio startups are using cellular agriculture to domesticate cells that mimic animal products like meat and milk without the cost to the environment, factory farming, ocean pillage and cruelty of slaughterhouses. Top & bottom: An actual cow Top right: Cow-free cow as Mosa Meat beef cells IDEALOG.CO.NZ / 57
  3. 3. 58 / FOOD FIGHT lucky enough to try it. Backed by the world’s leading biotech accelerators and impact investors including Indie Bio and New Crop Capital, in March this year the company also went on to launch the world’s first clean poultry, including both chicken and duck produced directly from poultry cells. Israel, long renowned as a leader in agri-tech and efficient use of its often-limited resources, is also making its own inroads into the world of cellular agriculture.Yaron Bogan, CEO of the Modern Agriculture Foundation, says Israel now has three of the world’s five active cultured meat companies. Super Meat was Israel’s first cultured meat startup and has been pioneering cultured chicken since 2016, but in May this year at the Modern Agriculture Foundation’s Clean Meat Conference two more Israeli research startups announced their launch. Future Meat Technology, which, rather than mince, is focusing on developing thick, lifelike cuts of chicken, and Meat the Future (which is yet to officially launch) is on a quest to produce a big juicy steak in the lab. IT’S ALIVE! Harvesting once-living animal cells to produce food isn’t the only way that cellular agriculture is revolutionising agriculture in the lab. US-based Impossible Foods, Clara Foods, Beyond Meat and New Wave Foods, along with New Zealand’s Sunfed Meats are just a few of the startups that have harnessed the beauty of “acellular” agriculture – enabling them to produce plant- based replicas of beef, eggs, seafood and chicken that taste, smell and sizzle uncannily like the real thing without harvesting animal cells at all. Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat,two of the plant-based protein poster children disrupting the beef patty,have discovered how to produce“heme”, a molecule normally found in animal blood and known for giving meat its red,bloody colour and savoury taste,using soy root nodules and culturing it in the lab with yeast.And San Francisco’s Perfect Day has created a yeast that mimics a cow’s DNA blueprint that,when fermented,produces real milk proteins.Both companies are going gangbusters. Impossible Foods,which already sells into 20 high-end restaurant chains,is building a large scale production site in Oakland,California that will enable it to make four million burgers each month. And Beyond Meat,whose beef and chicken replicas are already sold intoWhole Foods,has recently signed a deal with Safeway,one of the US’s biggest mainstream supermarket chains,to start stocking 280 of its 1,300 locations.It’s also made its first foray into the meat capital of the world,Hong Kong,in a partnership with Green Common,a high-end one- stop concept store for casual dining and shopping. Auckland-based Sunfed Meats’ first product, plant-based chicken made from Canadian yellow pea protein and other plant products, is also set to hit Kiwi supermarket shelves in July this year. Sunfed’s process is a closely guarded trade secret, but the company says its production method consumes five times less land and water than chicken whilst having higher levels of protein, zinc and iron. Members of the Auckland public were hard pressed to taste the difference during public taste testes late last year, convinced it was actual chicken. “We took a step back and asked ourselves, can we define what meat means to us? The traditional definition means it comes from animal protein, and we went‘what if we could make meat from plants’”, founder Shama Sukul Lee explained. While plant-based protein isn’t unique, the company believes it’s onto a good thing. Most of Sunfed’s overseas competitors are focused on red meats and seafood alternatives while Sunfed is focused on the most-consumed meat in the Western world and home kitchen. The company says plant-based beef, pork and fish will follow. Irrespective of their ethical motivations or the variety of food replicas this wave of synbio start-ups are developing, they all have big hopes to disrupt the trillion-dollar food industry.And investors like Bill Gates and Sergey Brin, Google co-founder and president of its parent company, Alphabet, are among some of the big names that are bankrolling, and potentially expediting, their road to market. OLD FAITHFUL So what’s driving these bounteous sums of venture capital and the world’s most talented scientists and entrepreneurs into the field of cellular agriculture and synbio? One might think that nabbing a slice of the multi-trillion dollar food pie would be the primary motivation. That’s certainly part of it. But it’s not all of it. By using synbio these startups are hoping to transform conventional agriculture’s woefully flawed business model.And there’s nothing startups like more than inefficient legacy systems (and audacious goals). To start, animal farming – be it to produce meat or milk – is rough on the planet.According to the UN, traditional livestock farming accounts for about 18 percent of greenhouse emissions and uses nearly 40 percent of the Earth’s global land surface. The World Resource Institute says one third of this surface alone is used exclusively to grow the crops to feed to livestock in order for them to grow the protein we then eat.“If you were looking for a way to create food you really couldn’t do much worse than growing crops to feed them to animals so the animals convert them into meat,”says Bruce Friedrich, executive director of The Good Food Institute and cellular agriculture focused investment capital firm, New Crop Capital. Friedrich says it takes 23 calories of grain to make one calorie of beef produced in a feedlot. “Even the most efficient meat on the market, chicken, requires nine calories of grain, alfalfa or whatever feed that chicken needs to get one calorie back out. That’s 800 percent waste!” Agriculture also uses 70 percent of the world’s fresh water and is the world’s most significant polluter of the local and global waterways, a somewhat ironic scenario New Zealand has borne witness to over the last decade. According to calculations provided by Alison Dewes, a fourth generation New Zealand dairy farmer, it takes 250 litres of fresh water annually from aquifers and rivers to produce one litre of New Zealand milk on even the most sustainable of New Zealand dairy farms. And Memphis Meat’s Uma Valeti says 2,500 litres of water are used in the production of one conventionally-produced hamburger. Then there’s the issue of the poor animal ethics associated with conventional animal agriculture and the slaughter of billions of animals globally each year. Meat eaters globally, especially New Zealanders, may like to think all milk and meat comes from happy animals frolicking in rolling hills, as it is more often (though not always) produced here. But the reality is that most of the world’s meat and dairy production comes from overcrowded and intensely confined industrial settings like factory farms, battery cages and feedlots riddled with bacteria and cruelty. The surge in global health pandemics and outbreaks such as e-coli, salmonella, bird flu and foot and mouth disease are all largely symptomatic of intensive and confined factory-farming conditions, says the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN. And according to the FDA, 80 percent ——— By choosing a quarter- pound Impossible Burger, instead of the same burger made from a cow, you’re saving the equivalent of taking a 10-minute shower. More water than you’d drink in a couple of months. Patrick Brown / Impossible Foods ———
  4. 4. IDEALOG.CO.NZ / 59 $40 per gram and we plan to reduce this to just a few cents per gram over the next five years,” says Valeti.“There may be a small price premium over the first few years, but our goal is to get this on par with conventional meat.” HYPE OR HOPE? For all its promise, synbio and lab-made food need to overcome a number of challenges and not everyone is convinced it will be the solution to the problems of conventional animal agriculture. This gives New Zealand at least a small window of respite while it assesses a potential road ahead without the farm. “What we eat is so heavily influenced by culture, taste, preference, and cost,” says Paul West, co-director and lead scientist at Global Landscapes Initiative, Institute of the Environment, at the University of Minnesota. “Even if something works really well on paper, it doesn’t mean that it’s accepted.” Rational arguments regularly fail to trump emotional forces (emphasis on Trump).And humans have a long history of unquestioningly continuing seemingly nonsensical, often unethical, environmentally-dubious practices if they are firmly engrained, rather than look for alternatives. For one, many are squeamish about biotechnology in their food and the“ick” or“creep” factor that many people associate with lab-grown alternatives – especially those produced from animal cells – will have to be overcome. For some in the baby boomer generation, who have grown up with a more nostalgic view of food provenance and production, the idea of eating a lab-grown meatball may even seem heretical. So a key hurdle for both lab meat and plant-based food companies will be making these radical feats in technology palatable enough so the world’s billions of consumers actually want to eat them. The sanitised, unnatural aspect of growing meat or culturing food in the lab versus “outdoors” also appears to creep out many new to the idea of cellular agriculture. “We have white lab coated science producing meat.This does not seem like a natural process for most people.What seems natural is to kill an animal,”says Sam Harris,a globally renowned neuroscientist,philosopher,and best-selling author. Lab-made food may conjure up images of dystopian sci-fi movies, but the reality is that synthetic biology and cellular agriculture have been in our food for more than 20 years. “There’s a lot of ick factor things in animal agriculture already but we just choose not to think about them,” says Specht. Rennet, enzymes produced in the stomachs of ruminant mammals used to separate milk into solid curds for cheese- of antibiotics produced by pharmaceuticals companies in the US are fed to farm animals. While these figures may be less in other developed nations, the effects are far reaching. “Bacteria are learning how to get around antibiotics and may be ushering in an end of an era of antibiotics working in human medicine, with catastrophic consequences,” says Friedrich. All the while global meat consumption has increased rapidly in recent decades, with year on year increases since 2014, according to London- based market research firm Euromonitor. OECD figures say global meat production is projected to be 16 percent higher in 2025 than in 2013-15. David Robinson Simon, US lawyer and author of Meatonomics, says the externalised cost of the animal food system in the US alone is US$414 billion annually, 75 percent of which is spent on obesity, diabetes and heart disease related health epidemics driven by high rates of consumption of meat and dairy. MORE OR LESS? By contrast, the benefits of synbio-enabled food and agricultural production are numerous. Not only can cultured foods like lab-grown and plant-based meats and milk proteins put an end to animal cruelty and the carnage of slaughterhouses, they also hold the potential to feed the world without the devastation of the environment in ways potentially nutritionally superior than today’s alternatives. At scale, startups like Memphis Meats, Perfect Day and Mosa Meat claim that their products use up to 98 percent less water, 90 percent less land, 84 percent less greenhouse gas emissions, and 65 percent less energy than typical industrial animal agriculture production meat and dairy products. Plant-based alternatives like the Impossible and Beyond Burger yield similar, if not higher, environmental improvements. “By choosing a quarter-pound Impossible Burger, instead of the same burger made from a cow, you’re saving the equivalent of taking a 10-minute shower. More water than you’d drink in a couple of months,” says Impossible Foods CEO, Patrick Brown, a molecular biologist and professor of biochemistry. For each Impossible Burger substituted, consumers are also reducing greenhouse gas emissions by the equivalent of driving 29 fewer kilometres solo in a typical American car and are freeing up a land area of 75 square feet. In New Zealand terms, that’s seven square metres (a good sized bedroom) of land saved each burger. Calorie for calorie, cultured meat alternatives are also vastly more efficient,Valeti says, potentially eliminating the need for feeding mass quantities of animals and freeing up the land they occupy.While 23 calories of grain are required to make one calorie of beef produced in a feedlot, Memphis Meats’ process takes only three calories of input for calorie of its clean chicken meat. Understandably, questions are being raised about just how many resources and inputs cultured meat alternatives themselves will require in their production and the associated environmental impacts. But cellular agriculture pioneers and proponents say these will be negligible. “It’ll certainly take a lot of resources to scale (clean meat).But no matter how many resources it takes,it will definitely be more efficient than animal agriculture,”says Dr Liz Specht,senior scientist at the Good Food Institute,who works intimately on the progressing the commercialisation of cellular agriculture.“Simply because of how much is lost thermodynamically when you grow an animal to get calories out of that animal.” FINE DINING With Mosa Meat’s first clean meat patty and Memphis Meat’s meatball costing $330,000 and $9,000 per pound respectively, cellular alternatives are way out of the price range for the average consumer. But, much like the exponentially declining cost of genome sequencing, the cost of producing the cultured meat has plummeted over the last several years and startups are optimistic they will realistically be able to match conventional farmed alternatives within 5-10 years. Mosa Meats announced in 2016 that it cut the price of its meat to around US$30 per pound, or $11 a burger, through further development of its process since its $330,000 launch. Memphis Meats also claims its current technology can now produce a pound of chicken for less than half of what it cost to produce its first pound of beef meatball in 2016 and the team expects to continue reducing production costs dramatically, with a target launch of its products to consumers in 2021. “We are now producing our meat for less than ——— What we eat is so heavily influenced by culture, taste, preference, and cost. Even if something works really well on paper, it doesn’t mean that it’s accepted. Paul West / University of Minnesota ———
  5. 5. 60 / FOOD FIGHT If consumer acceptance does proves to be as smooth sailing as the market currently suggests, there are several other fairly major hurdles confronting companies reinventing food in the lab. The first being their ability to scale up to actually feed the amount of people they proclaim they want to feed. With the exception of plant-based food companies, like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, whose products are already on the market, most startups working in this space are still working in laboratory settings – meaning scale and economies are an issue. Mass production of animal cells in the quantities required needs meat bioreactors – or fermentation tanks. Not only this, but supply chain inputs including cell“media” (the scientific term for the broth of soupy nutrients required to grow and multiply cell lines into nutrient dense meat) and“scaffold” (the structure on which cells grow and which also gives meat such as steak its differentiated shape, texture and taste) will also need to be scaled up in order to replicate cells and meat en masse. “There simply don’t exist enough players right now to produce it in the quantities we need to scale that would be needed to make a dent in the meat market,” says Specht. Michael Morey, general manager operations and country manager for MP Biomedicals New Zealand, a biotech company that develops animal-based media to manufacture stem cells for the therapeutics and diagnostics industries, is sceptical that this scale up will happen anytime soon – if at all. He thinks that cellular agriculture startups like Mosa Meats and Memphis Meats have a long road ahead to overcome the challenges of scaling supply chain inputs – especially if they aim to ultimately use animal-free inputs such as media and scaffold. While supply chain considerations will be key, many in the industry are optimistic scaling issues will be quickly ironed out in the coming decade, even in a matter of years. “That supply chain will need to develop alongside,” says Specht.“It’s possible that a significant amount of new infrastructure will need to be built to scale this – especially around tissue perfusion [or, for the layman, creating meat that looks and feels like steak or chicken breast, not just mushy mince meat]. But I wouldn’t say it is holding things back right now. There still are a few years of R&D to get the production system in place.And an area the Good Food Institute is really intent on making sure of is that the supply chain is being bolstered in parallel so that it doesn’t become the bottle neck in the future.” GAME ON Even if the full suite of technologies necessary for cellular agriculture to produce tasty, Top to bottom: The Beyond Burger; Impossible Foods burger; Perfect Day animal-free milk; Sunfed's chicken-free chicken making and liquid whey, is one of the most widely used food applications of synbio today.And for years companies have been using synbio-derived enzymes in baking ingredients and to break down the cloudy components of fruit juice. Most consumers are so far removed from the production process that they have little idea, or at least consideration, of their food’s provenance. For many urban children, meat and dairy products come from the supermarket, not from the farm. But when you’re trying to completely transform the global food industry, maybe this ignorance and apathy could work in the favour of synbio – if the products aren’t too much different from what people are already consuming. “Today people eat cheese with no problem, but if people knew about things like pus in milk and that rennet is sourced from the lining of a stomach from a calf, then [clean meat] would seem pretty good. If it’s gone through certain regulatory hurdles, if it can reach price parity with current meat prices, and other people are eating it, I think the ick factor will go by the wayside fairly quickly,” says Specht. A MATTER OF TASTE Challenges around consumer acceptance appear to be far from insurmountable – in fact, quite the opposite. In February 2016, Harris put an out informal poll on Twitter to over 14,000 respondents asking“If cultured meat is molecularly identical to beef, pork, etc., and tastes the same, will you switch to eating it?” His survey was potentially preaching to the converted, but the response was a resounding yes, as it was last year when Memphis Meats held a taste test of its meatball and posted a video of it on social media. It went viral and the company received overwhelmingly positive interest in the product. “If there’s any stress on us at all, it’s how fast can we get this product to market. It’s not how can we convince people to eat it,” says Valeti. Reactions to plant-based proteins have been similar for Impossible Foods, with eager diners happy to book in advance, and even queue for the burger.And Beyond Meat’s launch of its plant- based patties in Whole Foods Market Colorado in 2016 sold out within minutes, leading to a nation- wide roll out of the product. Now mainstream US supermarket chain, Safeway, has agreed to stock the burger across its California, Hawaii and Nevada stores. David Lee, COO of Impossible Foods, believes millennials will be the first to embrace such alternatives. “The millennials are really seeking out this alternative. They, more than any other consumer demographic, really want to be able to experience and know about the origin of their food. They also happen to be the largest consumer of ground beef.”
  6. 6. IDEALOG.CO.NZ / 61 affordable and scalable options for the consumer can successfully come together, will it get the regulatory approval? Will regulators consider such new and novel synbio-led food innovations safe for human consumption and allow them the right to be called“milk” or“meat” or whatever they claim to mimic? Deep-pocketed Big Food and the agricultural industry are very familiar with lobbying regulators to protect their industries and, for many of them, this new wave is a very real threat. To tackle this, an increasing number of specifically cellular agriculture advocacy and research organisations (including US-based New Harvest, the Good Food Institute and the Modern Agriculture Foundation in Israel) are directing their efforts to industry-wide collaboration to minimise regulatory hurdles and to ensure its road to market encounters as few roadblocks as possible. “Whether it qualifies as a food ingredient or as a novel food, or whether we can substantiate it as an equivalent to meat and argue it should be regulated as meat itself – all of these are open questions,” says Specht. Says Bogan:“In my view, there’s not much difference between the nutrients in clean meat and in traditional meat. The regulations will need to consider and discuss this. There’s not much difference between the way yeast is grown in big fermenters and turned into beer, and the methods used to culture chicken for food.” The Good Food Institute also has a dedicated policy team and food law professor to help the industry specifically map out what the various possible regulatory routes are that cellular agriculture and clean meat might take. A recent report Preparing for Future Products of Biotechnology, which was commissioned by the White House, went so far as to recommend regulatory agencies develop “single point of entry” to streamline the regulatory approval process for the imminent entry of clean meat and cellular agriculture products onto the market. Specht is also optimistic big food interests will be no barrier for cellular agriculture’s day in the sun. “I think that regulatory approval will be a process, but I don’t see it being more difficult because of industry push back,” she says. “Maybe that’s naive, but actually we’ve seen a lot of interest from industry exploring whether this is an investment route they want to go into, or might want to transition some of their business prospects to. So I’m hoping that if we can continue to maintain that relationship and they stand to profit as well then they won’t be obstructionist in that way.” Bogan even sees big food as another funding avenue to bolster progress in the sector and get a slice of the action. HIGH STEAKS Tyson Foods – one of the biggest meat producers in the world – sent its principal scientist, Hultz Smith, to the Modern Agriculture Foundation’s Cultured Meat and Path to Commercialisation Conference in Israel this year to learn from the world’s top-tier cellular agricultural and tissue engineering scientists, researchers, academics and industry leaders.A proponent of cellular agriculture, Hultz even openly supports cultured meat research, viewing it as a viable substitute to current meat production and one that gives consumers a broader choice.And in late 2016 the company launched a $150 million venture fund zeroing in on the alternative protein – including cellular agriculture – space.“This fund is about broadening our exposure to innovative, new forms of protein and ways of producing food,” said Monica McGurk, Tyson executive vice president of strategy, at its launch. “I always approach things as a sceptic – all scientists should. It’s not feasible until I’m convinced otherwise,” says Specht.“But quite frankly, I think it’s going to take off. If you’re offering people a product that’s essentially the same thing, nutritionally very similar, taste very similar and the price is there, why wouldn’t people buy it?” Other Big Food behemoths are also starting to accept the inevitability of such predictions. In the past 18 months, major food companies like General Mills, Kellogg’s, Campbell Foods and Fonterra have established strategic new venture arms and funds focusing on more sustainable food solutions and alternative proteins – including cellular agriculture alternatives. Fonterra recently launched the Fonterra Ventures Co-Lab in an effort to drive the co- operative's‘disruption avoidance’ strategy. The collaborative open platform provides individual entrepreneurs, small businesses or large corporates the chance to submit concepts that the dairy giant will look to potentially partner on to scale and succeed for mutual benefit.“Fonterra is fortunate to partner with some brilliant businesses in New Zealand and across the globe, and we’re looking to join forces with them in increasingly innovative ways to accelerate growth and ultimately return more value to our farmers,” says Judith Swales, chief operating officer of velocity and innovation. TILL THE COWS COME HOME While synbio’s cultured meat and milk aren’t going to replace traditional, industrialised agriculture overnight and there’s a long way to go before its production can ramp up to feed the world en masse, it is clear the train has left the station. “When you see companies like Tyson investing in plant-based foods and when the big dogs are trying to fund smaller companies, you know a change is coming,” says Kale Walch, co founder of the Herbivorous Butcher, a company cashing in on the changing face of agriculture. But this idealistic animal-protein-utopia does not come without its consequences, especially for agricultural producing and exporting nations like New Zealand. New Zealand’s Beef and Lamb exports alone amounted to nearly $6 billion (although that was down 12 percent on the year to November 2016).And dairy giant Fonterra’s $9.2 billion in revenue for the first half of 2017 was responsible for another sizeable chunk of the national GDP. Demand for organic food is higher than it has been for decades as many consumers put quality before price. New Zealand stands to benefit from that shift given our strong country brand and some believe there will always be a place for naturally produced food, no matter how techno lab-based the market becomes.And some, like Mike Lee, a Silicon Valley-based consultant to NZ Beef and Lamb, argue there will be other ways for the humble Kiwi cow to benefit the country. “If New Zealand believes that they have the best beef and lamb why wouldn’t New Zealand want to breed the prototype for these companies to multiply?” he says.“Maybe the New Zealand cow and lamb are the things that get multiplied in the labs. I think that’s the way to thrive with these innovations instead of rejecting them.” But Valeti says all it takes is a harmless biopsy the size of a sesame seed for companies like Memphis Meats to produce enough meat for ample quarter pounders in the lab. Implying that no matter how genetically superior New Zealand’s breeding stock is, the herd sizes required to feed the world would still be minimal and potentially less profitable than Lee implies. “Our goal is to entirely remove the animal from the meat production process,” says Valeti. All things told, the scale of the endeavour for synthetic biology and cellular agriculture to reinvent the world’s meat and protein supply, along with the profits it has the potential to reap, is huge.And it’s a movement not to be dismissed by even the most conservative of Kiwi farmers. “We plan to do to animal agriculture what the car did to the horse and buggy. Cultured meat will completely replace the status quo and make raising animals to eat them simply unthinkable,”says Valeti.“We know we’ve touched a chord globally.” For now, Daisy the Cow and Farmer Brown aren’t going anywhere. But their days in the field could soon be numbered as this new and growing legion of synthetic biology and biotech companies pioneer – and continue to refine – an industry of animal-free animal products.
  7. 7. With global population growth, water scarcity and the desire for food security high on the list of political concerns, the agtech sector is booming and attracting plenty of investment. Here are some of the local companies improving the way we produce food. Biolumic Biolumic, based in Palmerston North, has pioneered Smart Light Array Technology to increase crop yields, traits and resistance to pests and disease when applied to seeds, seedlings, and plants. The company’s UV lighting technology is also able to infuse plants with certain flavour and colour profiles prior to harvest resulting in tastier and better-looking (i.e. more marketable) produce. Successful trials undertaken by Biolumic in New Zealand, Australia and the US with some of the largest lettuce, basil and broccoli growers and processors have shown its technology improves yields by between 10 and 26 percent and makes them hardier and bigger. Bioconsortia A New Zealand company based in the US, BioConsortia is developing a library of highly effective plant microbes for increasing agricultural yields and understanding how microbes that live inside plant tissues directly affect the way a plant survives and grows. The company has developed a revolutionary Advanced Microbial Selection (AMS) process for crop trait enhancement and its BioDiscovery platform holds one of the world’s largest collections of pre-screened and characterised micro-organisms for crop trait enhancement comprising over 45,000 microbes The company has a pipeline of products for increased fertilizer use, growth improvement and other beneficial crop traits. Compac Compac Sorting Equipment is a leading supplier of sorting and packing solutions to the global produce industry. Compac sorters use digital cameras and software to analyse and sort fresh produce based on weight, size, shape, colour and surface blemishes and then delivers it to the packing areas. The technology also provides traceability solutions to packhouses where produce can be tracked from its orchard block across the packing line and into bags, while records are stored for recall. Robotics Plus Tauranga-based Robotics Plus specialises in developing autonomous fruit packing robots for the apple and kiwifruit industry. The automated apple packing machines place apples in trays "colour up" with the stems aligned, using sensors, software and electromechanical technology, and are expected to remove some of the monotonous work that apple packhouses find difficult to staff. The company is also developing automated fruit pollination and harvesting technology and a self-driving vehicle for orchards. Robotics Plus has five automated packers operating in Nelson and has plans to enter the United States and other markets. Hivemind Hivemind develops beehive monitors that track hive weight, humidity, temperature, location and remotely monitor hives from anywhere. Its remote hive monitoring systems enable beekeepers to remotely track and optimise hive productivity (honey production), hive health and increase security. Hivemind’s flagship system involves scales that sit under a hive and a satellite or wireless hub – the “brains of the operation” – that measure the hive’s weight, a key indicator determining whether the nectar and honey flow is on. CropLogic Christchurch-based precision agriculture firm CropLogic is built on technology developed over 30 years out of Plant & Food Research. It gathers data via low-powered wireless networks and satellite systems from in-field sensors and provides growers with real-time prescriptions for the application of crop inputs. CropLogic, which recently closed its $2 million pre-IPO capital raising, has conducted field trials with potatoes in China, USA, Australia and New Zealand with PepsiCo, Lamb Weston, Simplot and McCain Foods. And it’s set to move into other commodities like corn, wheat, soybean and cotton. Agrigate Agrigate is a joint venture between Fonterra and the Livestock Improvement Corporation that provides New Zealand dairy farmers with a digital dashboard that aggregates data from multiple sources to enable farmers to make better on-farm decisions about herd and pasture management. Agrigate assesses the interaction between different on-farm factors, such as weather conditions, animal health, milk production, financials, pasture cover and fertiliser applications, and allows farmers to benchmark those factors on a scale they haven’t been able to in the past. Farmshed Labs Breeding cows isn’t art, it’s science. And Farmshed Labs’ wearable tech is making that science easier than ever before. Flashmate is a heat detection device that lets farmers know when their female cows are in heat and available for breeding. The device is attached to a cow on their right flank just below the hip bone, and when they are in heat, it flashes red for about 26 hours, giving farmers time to get things happening on the calving front. Ubco The Ubco 2x2 electric bike was first launched at Fieldays in 2014, and was initially designed as a two-wheel utility vehicle that could replace farm motorbikes due to being quiet (it doesn’t disturb lifestock), light (easily transportable and lifted over fences) and easy to maintain (no clutches or chains). The demand for a recreational, on-road version from users and industries such as tourism and law enforcement has meant another version of the bike is in the works. 62 / FOOD FIGHT UP COUNTRY