The food of the future is already finding its way on to plates in San Francisco. Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat, two startups in which Bill Gates has invested, are now producing meat that isn't really animal flesh. Cooked up in a laboratory from vegetable material, this 'faux-meat' nevertheless has not only the proteins but also the appearance, the structure, and even the taste of the real thing. Today there are a number of restaurants in San Francisco where you can try out this culinary novelty, mostly in burger form. The basic idea is to provide a type of food that is rich in nutrition, but without depleting the world's natural resources or polluting the planet. In the same vein, in order to avoid over-fishing and its impact on the environment, a number of startups are working to create a 'fish' product based on vegetable proteins. Odontella, based in Bordeaux in southwestern France, has developed salmon-free 'salmon' from microalgae. Meanwhile, back on the US west coast, Finless Foods is making 'seafood' from stem cells in a laboratory. Using cellular agriculture, the Berkeley-based startup has set out to grow foodstuffs that are both healthier for people and more nature-friendly, at an affordable price. Terramino Foods, a young company that went through acceleration at the Indie Bio incubator set up by hardware acceleration specialist Hax (which ran a demo day on 17 April), cherishes similar ambitions to produce sustainable foodstuffs for planet Earth and her inhabitants. Terramino is developing an alternative protein from fungi (a life-form distinct from both animals and plants that includes mushrooms), which replicates the taste, texture and nutritional value of the seafood products it is designed to imitate. It seems that, in the not-too-distant future, we might well have fish on our plates that never saw the sea or swam a river… but will nevertheless be playing its part in preserving those precious expanses of natural water.
By Sophia Qadiri