Partially Attended

an irregularly updated blog by Ian Mulvany

The new food.

Sun Nov 11, 2012

529 Words

a piece of cheese

I got to spend a really fun forty minutes or so this morning with Pat Brown, down at the home of Lyrical Foods, the new project that he is involved in. They are aiming to replace the dairy and cattle industry by producing food from plant derived products that is indistinguisable from the original products. They have already created artisinal cheeses that are indistingushable from milk-based cheeses, and I understand that they are currently working on fake blood, that has the same response profile to cooking, as real blood does.


The goal is truly ambitious, to replace and restructure an indsutry that takes up a huge amount of land, water resources, and that causes significant amountns of greenhous gas emissiosns.

I was actually visiting to chat about publishing, as Pat is also one of the founders of a small publisher that you might have heard of, goes by the names of PLOS. They are located in an industrial unit in menlo park, and you walk in and it looks like most other office spaces, then you walk through past the front desk, and there is an open space, hang-out room, with some coders chilling on some sofas (very start up), and then past that there is a huge open spaced room with a large microbiology lab. A freakin large open spaced microbilogy lab, with loads of activity, of the “making cheese from plants” variety.

He showed me some sample cheeses that they had cilling in the fride, one looked like an incredibly appetising brie. (I sadly didn’t get a chance to taste one).

I asked what the cost margins were in contrast to the traditional route for cheese making, and Pat said, back of envelope, they have something like a 35-fold cheaper process, but that there are a lot of open questions to resolve. He said the food production industry has set a very low bar on efficiency.

There have been some observations recently that the hi-tech industry has stalled in the big impact changes to impact society at large. Indoor plumbing, the car, maybe the cell phone, but the vast majority of innnovation has been navel-gazing stuff (shinier computers, flashier web sites). If you could get rid of the need to farm the majority of our food, you would have a o breakthrough that would fundamentally change humanity.

This is a big idea, and really one that is worthy of the potential of the valley. You could save the ecosystem of the planet, you may be able to life billions of people out of poverty, or remove the need for them to toil for the creation of food. You would create a basis for the fundamental reappraisal of the ethical relationship beteen man and other species on earth, if we no longer were in a position where we had to eat those species.

The following sloagans were written up on their walls:

“Our mission is to revolutionise the food production industry by replacing meat and dairy with plant based alternatives”

“the impact of what we will do will be so profound, and so great, that the earth itslef will look different from space”


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