Could micro-organisms revolutionise our food?

FT News


For the first time will also be recording this for video on our Youtube Channel so today we're here to talk about Crowell food an extreme file is a microbe that can survive in extreme conditions one star up in Chicago has found a way of turning these microbes rapa creatures into an edible protein part of a growing trend towards a microbial revolution in Food and agriculture could microbes hold the key to feeding a growing relation here with me in the studio to discuss this is Emiko Tarazona commodities correspondent and Clive Cookson science editor thanks for joining today Emiko to start with tell us a bit about this company and what it is trying to do so sustainable biproduct is a start up in the US yes and it's turning and micro that discovered in yellowstone national park into protein so they are going to use precision fermentation and they again A to turn this protein into alternative dairy and meat products like burgers and microbial base cheese wow has it garnered much first from investor's overall the search for alternative proteins is such a hot topic in Food and agriculture these days and comes as increasing income uh-huh in developing countries and when populations become more rich they moved from carbohydrates to prestige products I meet but people can't continue easing me because of the environmental is also health concerns as well so we've had the plant based meat products impossible Burger and beyond meat and the search is on for alternative sources of protein among entrepreneurs and scientists and so yes investors are we interested sustainable by products is raised she three million early this year from companies including France's Danone and Archer Daniels Midland which is an agricultural trade we've got some really serious money behind them what to these products actually tastes like have you tried any yourself when you talk about protein means you'll have a protein which is a source of the product by the vehicle for the taste so I think the idea there is to reduce the taste of the channel whatever you using it sauce itself like pre protein which is used in beyond meat you don't want it tastes like peas yeah so you want the protein to be pures possible with Mike I have not tasted was actually not on the market so I have not tasted volcanic microbial burgers but the other uses with proteins is as food ingredient to enhance the taste of a certain product or change the way the product tastes for instance impossible foods I uses a protein called him which is made from soy and that is made from precision fermentation and it adds the meaty taste gene. The bugah wow so how optimistic are you I mean is this pine sky or do you think this is genuinely changing the way that we wing to source proteins in our food well I didn't think it's Pine Sky Tool because you already have corn for instance that is more not not C. O. R. A. But exactly due to you O. R. N. and that is made from a micro protein which is a sort of fungus and that's been around forever clive you know better than me in Qu'une dates back to the nineteen eighties and it's a good thing to think of anyone has headcorn it is as you said a vehicle for taste quarter is growing out of single celled fungus which you can define `as Microbe F- Initiative Mike Grove is somewhat stretchy incubators any organism that you can't see with the naked eye as the individual cells and you have to onto microscope to identify them that's so interesting I mean microbe seem to be having a bit of a moment recently why have they come into the spotlight now I guess spotlight might be the wrong where maybe under the telescope from yes what's the wider scientific picture here well when it comes to food one of the most important changes as of the twenty first century in in nutrition and even I would say in medicine is understanding that the billions of microbes the bacteria that live in our what's play a gigantic role in our health not just how we digest food that's the most important thing but even welby being psychologically the microbes within our body of vital and therefore there's a big and growing industry you're trying to produce microbes not say much as food but to populate guts with friendly bacteria so that's a very big growth area Another is that might cribs used to ferment foods of being extended a lot everything from Kim Chae to sauerkraut route to the molds are cheeses to bear in wine they depend on microbes one sort or another and so using microbes to produce protein I mean could this be scaled up used worldwide I mean are there inhibiting factors will I think we have to remember uh-huh like all new foods microbial food stamp grow on thin air they will need a lot of input of water nutrients at that try so from the environmental point of view that are not going to be completely benign now they're probably going to be more sustainable and growing card which spends a lot of its energy wondering around fields and belching and burping and emitting methane which is a very powerful greenhouse gas but I think those environmental questions need to be answered and they haven't yet been answered by the new foods companies that are making not only microbial foods CACO's talking about earlier but also sell based meat and fish products web rather than growing a cow will catching a fish you'll grow the proteins and the muscle the fibers hopefully trying to capture the texture and taste in the lab and where does this fit into other types of new food technologies I think they're going to be seen alongside these other cell taste foods a lot of progress is being made in taking for example stem cells from cowes Castle and getting them to develop essentially and to meet and if you combine that with Three D. Printing you can get something that's good texture I mean that's one possibility abass meat but I guess this whole microbial fungus bacterial activity I mean how will consume is really react to it is the uh-huh because it's cruel to animals and I didn't think cruelty to microbes is going to enter the picture remains to be seen sustainable but biproduct CEO has told me that he wants is to get a product out into the market either on a trial basis or onto the shelves at least in about eighteen months in the US so it'll be interesting to see what sort of marketing strategy he takes a certified next Winter Christmas twenty twenty we could be having microbial something on the shelf test smoke it I think probably not in London yeah yeah as a final question I wanted to ask you both do you think there's an argument that time and money would be better spent encouraging food and agricultural offices that are more sustainable rather than creating new products that sort of enable everyone to keep consuming in the same way I think that's a really interesting question but I suspect that the horses kind of left the stable that consumers want convenient food that they crave and also the newly rid sh developing country population they also want that as well they expect that and on the other hand you'd companies and fast food companies won't all that so can we continue killing life is to have diversity I think from a sustainability and health point of view giving consumers as rich and diverse mixture of foods as

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