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MIT develops method for lab-grown plants that eventually lead to alternatives to forestry and farming

By Darrell Etherington

Researchers at MIT have developed a new method for growing plant tissues in a lab – sort of like how companies and researchers are approaching lab-grown meat. The process would be able to produce wood and fibre in a lab environment, and researchers have already demonstrated how it works in concept by growing simple structures using cells harvested from zinnia leaves.

This work is still in its very early stages, but the potential applications of lab-grown plant material are significant, and include possibilities in both agriculture and in ruction materials. While traditional agricultural is much less ecologically damaging when compared to animal farming, it can still have a significant impact and cost, and it takes a lot of resources to maintain. Not to mention that even small environmental changes can have a significant effect on crop yield.

Forestry, meanwhile, has much more obvious negative environmental impacts. If the work of these researchers can eventually be used to create a way to produce lab-grown wood for use in construction and fabrication, in a way that’s scalable and efficient, then there’s tremendous potential in terms of reducing the impact of forestry globally. Eventually, the team even theorizes you could coax the growth of plant-based materials into specific target shapes, so you could also do some of the manufacturing in the lab, by growing a wood table directly for instance.

There’s still a long way to go from what the researchers have achieved. They’ve only grown materials on a very small scale, and will look to figure out ways to grow plant-based materials with different final properties as one challenge. They’ll also need to overcome significant barriers when it comes to scaling efficiencies, but they are working on solutions that could address some of these difficulties.

Lab-grown meat is still in its infancy, and lab-grown plant material is even more nascent. But it has tremendous potential, even if it takes a long time to get there.

Beyond Meat shares soar after inking deal with Taco Bell on new menu items

By Jonathan Shieber

Shares of Beyond Meat are soaring on news that the company will be working with Taco Bell on new menu items.

The company’s stock was up $17.13, or 13.67%, to $142.48 and climbing in midday trading after Taco Bell announced that it would embrace Beyond Meat to come up with new menu items due to be tested in the next year.

The decision from Taco Bell, a subsidiary of Yum Brands, is a departure from the Mexican fast food chain’s commitment to go it alone as it developed new vegetarian menu items.

“We’ve looked. We’ve met with Beyond, we’ve met with Impossible — our head of innovation knows everybody, and they all know her,” Julie Felss Masino, Taco Bell’s president of North American operations, told CNBC back in 2019. “But I think what we’re proud of is that we’ve been doing vegetarian for 57 years.”

Now the company wants más alternative proteins from the Southern California alternative protein provider. “We have long been a leader in the vegetarian space, but this year, we have more meatless options in store that vegetarians, veggie-curious and even meat-eaters will love,” said Liz Matthews, Taco Bell’s Global Chief Food Innovation Officer. 

Taco Bell boasts that it already has over 30 vegetarian ingredients on the U.S. menu, but its lack of protein alternatives was noticeable, as many of its competitors embraced the meat substitute craze.

Astanor Ventures launches $325M Impact Fund aimed at FoodTech and AgTech startups

By Mike Butcher

We can all, by now, ascribe to the idea that something has changed in the last few months. Like it or not, business is not as it was. If we were true to ourselves, we would admit that our lives will never be the name again. But parallel to this visceral feeling, is the quite clear and objective truth that the planet that sustains our existence is in trouble. So, surely, is it not beholden upon us to step up? Is this both a moral and a commercial opportunity?

Today Astanor Ventures is launching a $325m ‘Global Impact fund’ concentrating on food and agriculture technology. These are two of the most pressing areas in the climate debate,  The aim is to deploy funds across Europe and North America.

Astanor‘s fund is a multi-stage tech investor that unites both knowledge and experience of scaling new technology companies with food, cross-sector expertise and agriculture.

Speaking to TechCrunch, Eric Archambeau, co-founder and partner of Astanor Ventures said: “There is now an urgent need for an impact investor like Astanor which is using tech and capital to bring about a revolution in food and farming.”

Archambeau told TechCrunch that the fund will rigorously apply the ideas behind the UN’s seventeen SDGs to ints investments.

“There is a new generation coming on board at LPs and family offices today and new funds understand the imperative this generation now raises. It’s time to stop up and be counted for the future,” said Archambeau.

Within its network, Astanor counts entrepreneurs, impact investors, farmers, chefs, policymakers, food scientists and high-profile sector experts, such as Kathleen Merrigan, Professor in the School of Sustainability and Executive Director of the Swette Center for Sustainable Food Systems at Arizona State University (an Astanor Venture Partner).

The background opportunities to shift the economy are, by now, obvious. Multiple studies show there are booming greenhouse gas emissions and some 70% of the world’s freshwater resources are consumed by agriculture. The earth’s soil is degrading (fertile soil is being lost at rate of 24bn tonnes a year. Food waste is a huge issue and some 40% of food goes to waste); most fruit or vegetable has 15% less nutrients than it did in 1950.

 

Eric Archambeau, Astanor Ventures

Eric Archambeau, Astanor Ventures

Since its founding in 2017, Astanor has invested in more than 20 European and US startups that are working to accelerate regenerative agriculture, innovate food production techniques and farming, as well as promote food culture and the enjoyment of food.

Portfolio companies include French insect farming pioneer Ϋnsect, in which Astanor is the lead investor; Infarm, the Berlin -based on-demand vertical farming company; La Ruche Qui dit Oui, a French farm to table supplier; and Notpla, a UK-based company seeking to eliminate plastics by creating a highly functional packaging material from seaweed. California food waste reduction company Apee created plant-based protection for fresh fruit and vegetables, allowing produce to stay fresh twice as long as without it.

Beyond Meat unveils two new versions of its Beyond Burgers

By Jonathan Shieber

Beyond Meat has launched two new versions of its Beyond Burgers, the company announced today.

The two new options will be available on store shelves in 2021, but will be on offer at a two-day pop-up event in Los Angeles for folks to try.

The new Beyond Burger patties are designed to mirror the options of beef in the market with the presentation of a lower-fat patty option and a new version of its higher fat content option that the brand promises will be its “juiciest” patty for the “meatiest” Beyond Meat patty on the market.

The low-fat option contains 50% less saturated fat and 35% less total fat than 80/20 beef, according to a statement, and both burgers have fewer calories, and added vitamins and minerals that are comparable to beef’s micronutrient profile, the company said in a statement.

Beyond Meat shares rise on news that it collaborated with McDonald’s on the McPlant options

By Jonathan Shieber

After tumbling earlier today, Beyond Meat shares are shooting upward on news that the company did indeed collaborate with McDonald’s on its new McPlant vegetarian menu.

McDonald’s made waves this morning when it announced its new McPlant, and the company’s statement, which said that the new plant-based patty and chicken substitute formulation was made in-house, caused Beyond Meat shares to slide.

However, McDonald’s overstated its own role in the creation of its McPlant, which was actually developed in conjunction with Beyond Meat, according to a statement provided to CNBC.

Beyond Meat shares turn sharply higher after spokesperson for the company says “Beyond Meat and McDonalds co-created the plant-based patty which will be available as part of their McPlant platform."https://t.co/RqHoNhOrlt pic.twitter.com/cVkE7m5hAf

— CNBC Now (@CNBCnow) November 9, 2020

The stock has been on a roller coaster today, with shares sliding on fears that it had been rebuffed by McDonald’s and then rising on the clarification that it was involved in the process.

The partnership seems like a win for the alternative protein provider, which is locked in a meaty competition with its privately held rival, Impossible Foods, for fast food burger chain dominance.

However, there’s still more news from Beyond Meat that’s coming later today as the company announces its latest earnings report.

The numbers could have investors asking, “Where’s the beef?”

If it seems like Beyond Meat’s sausages, patties and chicken offerings are cropping up everywhere, that’s because they are. The company announced a deal with the Jamaican patty company Golden Krust, and expanded its partnership with KFC both in the U.S. and in China, where the chain sells a Beyond Burger.

However, the number of protein replacement competitors continues to expand with startup companies galore looking to pitch meatless alternatives to the burger. The Spanish company Heura has a new meat alternative that it boasts can replicate the fatty texture of meat with fewer ingredients than the first generation of suppliers.

Meanwhile, vegetarian spam has made its way onto McDonald’s menus in Hong Kong, a meatless chicken brand, Nuggs, is going direct to consumers, and Tyson Foods and Kellogg’s are both making vegetarian alternatives.

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