"Designer fats", next gen scaled up bioreactors: FFF weekly roundup

By David Stevenson on Monday 7 March 2022

Image source: "Designer fats", next gen scaled up bioreactors: FFF weekly roundup
CommentaryFood DeliveryAlternative proteinPlant-Based FoodTechVertical / Indoor Farming

Stalling sales growth, Oz carbon credit markets and engineered ‘designer fats’ plus next-gen scaled up bioreactors: FFF Weekly web roundup of big stories

Must read: Food Dive on plant-based meat sales stall

Excellent analysis of why the plant-based meat alternatives sector is in trouble

Cowen's Holland said that plant-based meat companies are in a very difficult spot right now. As growth in the category is decelerating, competition is increasing. For Beyond Meat, he said, the company is seeing both its market share and profit potential being squeezed. Add the unexpected issues of inflation, supply chain difficulties and the pandemic, and it makes the category much more challenging.


and also read this Edison Research report on why German Veganz has lowered FY21 revenue and profits guidance.


Food scare: Wheat futures soaring, food prices next

Geopolitical insecurity is hitting grain markets big time

Global food prices rose as much as 28% in 2021, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Supply chain disruptions and extreme weather contributed to the higher prices. And then came Ukraine.


Big trend: Carbon credit markets for farmers in Australia steps up a gear

Oz farmers might be in line for $2.6 billion bonanza on average $12 per tonne subsidy

The move, which the government hopes will help satisfy calls for more carbon credits vital to reaching the nation’s 2050 net zero goal, means owners of land-based projects who agreed to deliver around 188 million tonnes of abatement to the Commonwealth at an average price of $12 per tonne will be granted an option to sell to the open market instead.


and South Australia pumps A$1.3 billion into modern manufacturing initiative to make state into global hub for plant protein production


Big trend 2: Start-up readies engineered ‘designer fats’

We think cultured fats and oils are a huge new market for flexitarian consumers who want taste of meat from plant alternatives

Yali is in the process of developing a platform that will allow for fully tailored fat creations, for adding to alternative meat and dairy items. Synthetic biology and genomic tools are slated to be used in the process of fat development. Final products are claimed to be more sustainable than frequently used current oils, including coconut. They will be modified to offer comparable flavour and texture to animal-based fats.


Vertical farms major moves into Singapore with big new factory

Kalera builds new 50 foot tall plant capable of producing 500,000 kgs of greens each year       

This initiative is made possible through the Singapore Food Agency’s (SFA) 30 x 30 Express Grant, which supports the local agri-industry to produce 30% of Singapore’s nutritional needs locally and sustainably by 2030. The grant will help to ramp up local production of leafy vegetables through Kalera’s patented ‘Dryponics’ cultivation method


Are consumers willing to pay for regenerative agriculture? No, says US survey

Regenerative agriculture sounds great but we’ve always been worried consumers aren’t willing to pay. This survey says most consumers haven’t even heard of the term


Useful overview of global boom in AgTech investment

Who’d have guessed that Vert City Farm’s uses facial recognition software to monitor goats?

The AgTech sector is also booming in Brazil. The number of Brazilian startups focused on tech agribusiness grew 40% in 2020 compared to the previous pre-pandemic year


and also read this Portfolio Adviser article on AgTech growth opportunity

“Ulrik Fugmann, co-manager of the BNP Paribas Ecosystem Restoration fund, insists agtech is an area of growing importance. He points to investment opportunities including vertical and indoor farming operations, companies using satellite imagery for precision farming and finding ways to encourage no-till farming to prevent the degradation of soil quality.  This weakening of soil quality ultimately leads to the desertification of agricultural lands, the loss of microorganisms and interferes with the greatest carbon sink on Earth – soil.”


Worth watching: proteins used in cows milk but made with fungi

Another front in the battle for dairy alternatives: cultured proteins for milk

In tanks similar to those used to brew beer, they feed sugar to microbes that are genetically engineered with the cow DNA to make whey proteins.


This matters; Ark Biotechs next gen high volume bioreactors

How a new type of bioreactor could allow cultured meat sector to scale up

“One of the reasons that I think bigger plants make sense, at least as an interim step, is that we really think about the COGS (cost of goods sold) in a very deep way, a lot of which is like how do you get really cheap access to whatever the basal medium is. And to get really cheap access, you probably want to be located near where corn is shipped in, or whatever your other big ingredients are. You want to be near rail lines. You just want to get those economies of scale on the upstream. You also want to be co-located near cheap energy and preferably renewable energy.”


AgTech advances: New satellite service sees through clouds

Crop monitoring from space is a huge growth area, especially if they can see through clouds every six days

“At any given time an average of 67% of the Earth is covered by clouds, so precision agriculture systems that rely on getting clear satellite imagery at the right time have historically struggled to deliver on their high potential value. ClearSky eliminates that struggle by guaranteeing the consistent regularity these systems need to deliver results, enabling farmers to fully optimize their fertilizer use for example and helping both their wallets and the planet”.


Interview with top FoodTech fund manager

Van Eck’s Shawn Reynolds runs an AgTech and Food innovation ETF. Top holding Corteva

We believe we are in the early stages of a multi-decade transformation. As with many other nascent investment opportunities, the thesis behind the future of food can be difficult to index. Active management will allow the fund to target existing investment opportunities as well as potentially benefit from emerging opportunities among smaller or newer companies. The fund is also poised to benefit from the management team’s extensive agricultural investment experience and sustainable investment framework. VanEck’s public and private agricultural investment efforts have provided a front seat view of the future of the sector.


Deals and Funding

Starship snags $100m

Maker of food delivery robots scored $42 million in Series B funding less than 30 days after its €50 million ($55 million) infusion from the European Investment Bank


Swedish biotech Mycorena bags $26m on largest Nordic series A for alt proteins

Mycorena’s proprietary ingredient Promyc is a filamentous fungi that produces mycelium via fermentation in custom-designed bioreactors. The goal right now is to license Promyc to other food produces hoping to develop vegan meat alternatives, from crispy burgers and tuna analogues.