About the author: Andrey Zyuzin is CEO of EFKO Innovations, he has an MBA degree from the Fuqua Business School of the Duke University (USA). He was in charge of developing Cisco Systems ‘ business in Russia and the CIS markets and subsequently of interacting and creating the company’s development center in the Skolkovo Innovation Center. Since 2007, he has been engaged in venture investments.
According to the UN, about 7.7 bln people live on the Earth today and the population will grow to 9.7 bln people by 2050. Such growth will lead to deficiency of food and hunger. Nowadays the situation is aggravated by the spread of coronavirus: the crisis may provoke a humanitarian disaster and famine comparable to the period of World War II, predicts David Beazley, Head of the UN World Food Programme.
Future in numbers and facts
Along with that, the global population is not only growing but is growing older. The country’s governments have to feed more and more people with ever more quality products. It should be done without deforesting for crops and cow pastures – the world has to stabilize the ecological situation.
Food manufacturers and governments across the globe should simultaneously answer a range of important questions:
How to ensure a healthy lifestyle for the majority of people? For example, what to do with sugar that causes obesity and diabetes but still remains the cheapest filler ingredient?
Is it possible to feed the growing population with plant products by solving the problem of high cost and safety?
Is it good to permit gene editing to dramatically improve crop yields at the available fields?
How can we strategically regulate the production of food of the future, for example, cell-cultured meat?
4% of cow’s efficiency
It is a paradox: according to the World Health Organization, 1.9 bln adults over the age of 18 throughout the world have excess weight, while 650 mln of them are overweight. But at the same time over 820 mln people are out of bread and 150 mln children are dwarfed, in particular, due to poor nutrition.
Today, the food industry is at the changing point. The consumption of traditional products, such as milk, kefir, cottage cheese, sour cream, cream and butter, is reducing. Partly owing to this, experts predict an increase in the competitiveness of milk manufactured by the enzymatic method by 2023-25.
Even today, the enzymatic production of milk without a cow can give up to 5 ths liters of product and demonstrate efficiency to the resources spent from 40 to 60%. A cow can give out 20-30 liters with an efficiency of 4% to the resources spent.
In perspective, the market for dairy products may be reduced by 90%, the production of minced meat can be reduced by 70% and fillets — by 30%. The production of cow’s collagen and skin can be reduced by 90%. The report «Rethinking Food and Agriculture 2020-2030» says that the demand for the cattle-related products will decrease by 70%.
By 2030 alternative protein will be ten times cheaper than the animal one. It will be more nutritious, healthier, tastier and various than animal-derived analogues it replaces. The new production system will be protected from volatility, weather changes, droughts and other natural, economic and political factors. Moreover, innovative meat and dairy products can significantly improve the ecological situation: greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced by 45%.
Green alternative for traditional production. Companies are actively developing strains to synthesize food ingredients and enzyme finished products, they are in search of sources of protein and mineral nutrients in non-animal products. Efforts are underway to manufacture new packaging: biodegradable package with detectors and sensors that monitor consumer properties and expiration dates.
Gene and cell technologies. The humanity has already learnt to make meat, fish and dairy products without animals. Specific features of these products almost completely reproduce traditional analogues in terms of their content. Gene editing is also used to increase the product yield.
Personalized diet. The humanity has already consumed baby food, sports nutrition, etc. These categories are being gradually segmented further and step by step we will come to nutrition individual for each person: a healthy set of products based on blood tests.
Artificial intelligence for data analysis. Machines already analyze data and predict consequences of various factors affecting the agricultural performance. Computers design functional nutrients (proteins, sweeteners, etc.) as part of alternative products.
Internet of things and blockchain. The blockchain technology is able to track the entire chain of food product movement, monitor expiry dates and support development of alternative distribution channels.
Age of new products
Today, a number of companies manufacturing substitutes for traditional products are in successful operation across the globe. Founded in Los Angeles in 2009, Beyond Meat is the international manufacturer of plant-based meat substitutes. The developer of plant-based meat substitutes Impossible Foods Inc., which is valued at 4 bln dollars, raised 500 mln dollars from significant Asian investors in March 2020. This speaks volumes about the prospects for alternative meat throughout the world.
Indigo Ag specializes in technologies for increasing the yield of cotton, rice, corn and other crops. Perfect Day manufactures dairy proteins without animals, BlueNalu manufactures seafood from fish cells and Aleph Farms manufactures meat steaks from beef cells.
Healthy fast food (strange as it may sound) is already here: vegetarian burgers and nuggets are available in almost all fast food chains. It seems only a matter of time when the consumer tastes and appreciates them.
There is also a growing interest in alternative fish in the world market (both based on plant raw materials and cellular technologies). The market volume in this segment will exceed 300 mln dollars by 2025.
In Russia, alternative meat is developed by the Greenwise team, which created an analog of the Beyond Meat burger. The company uses plant raw materials from the Russian manufacturer Partner-M. Greenwise plans to concentrate its production sites in Germany and enter the local market with finished products. It is expected that the product will be two times cheaper than that of Beyond Meat. However, the company does not yet consider the Russian market as a promising one.
Meanwhile, some companies that are ready to market alternative products («Sady Pridonia» and «Ochakovo») run separate experiments in Russia. Yet, the systematic work is lacking at the moment.
From the book «Food 3.0. Growing Bananas in Iceland and Other Tales from the Logistics of Eating» by Robyn Metcalfe («Tochka» Publishing Group. Moscow, 2020).
Cellular agriculture is just one of the ways food production is changing hands. As an alternative to growing meat from animal cells, other scientists are creating meat-like proteins from plants».
«If plant burgers seem too old school, you can find your protein in bugs. Insect protein is on the rise as the new industry seeks a way to scale production. Called microlivestock, Insects as a substitute for animal protein still meet resistance in certain cultures».
«If bugs are too down to earth for our tastes, algae grown in space will develop a new vertical supply chain. As with fish farms, these new protein producers will shake up the supply chain, begging the question about the future of fields for grazing and feed-lots for fattening».
All the above-mentioned trends and problems are interrelated and require action: the world population is growing, the desire to have an active lifestyle in adulthood is rising, and climate change is evident. The number of researches on diseases related to the outdated diet model increase. The humanity has yet to understand whether we can effectively manufacture the required amount of safe and nutritious products that would not be more expensive than today’s ones and have no negative impact on the environment. And the existing start-ups demonstrate that there is a solution.