Plant molecular farming
Alternative Proteins Synthetic Biology

Plant Molecular Farming has its day in the sun

Growing animals in plants is the cutting edge of VC foodtech investment.

Well, maybe not growing the whole animal, but parts of them. It’s called Plant Molecular Farming (PMF) and it’s been around for quite a while but is now having its day in the sun for producing food ingredients. The technology is about inserting the gene for a product you want to make into a plant. You then grow the plant, harvest it and separate out the product you want. The reality is of course much more complicated, but that’s it in a nutshell.

As I talked about nearly 2 years ago the early food uses were for products such as producing growth factors for cultivated meat and chymosin for cheesemaking. But the exponential growth in food technologies like PMF has resulted in an explosion of applications. I covered the early ones in late 2021. We now have companies like Nobell Foods producing casein in soybeans and Israel based PoLoPo producing egg white proteins in potatoes! These are both animal proteins, hence my “growing animals in plants” 😀 But it’s not limited to these uses with Pigmentum Ltd. producing vanillin and other products in lettuce (yes, lettuce).

The growth in this technology is being accelerated by VC investment in startups. VCs like Big Idea Ventures are getting behind startups like Bright Biotech to produce growth factors for cultivated meat. Long time Plant Molecular Farming company ORF Genetics hf. is also producing cultivated meat growth factors, this time from barley.

Key takeaways

The first is that the technology uses plants as the production method meaning that farmers have a central role in the process. As always, whatever the problem, farmers are the answer.

The other is that food is now technology, and we’re going to need every weapon in our armoury to feed nearly 10 bn people sustainably, healthily and equitably by 2050.

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