Meatiest news of the year! Cargill on board for Memphis Meat's $17M Series A funding round!!

memphis meats clean meat chicken

If you were in denial about the clean meat revolution brewing and still believe its imminent route to market is a myth, then today you might just change your mind. This morning, Memphis Meats announced that it has gained the support of a groundbreaking group of investors for its $17M Series A round - including traditional meat producing incumbent Cargill!

The company’s Series A fundraising round, led by DFJ, marks the first public commitment to the clean meat movement by top venture investors AND meat industry leaders and marks a major moment where both meat industry leaders and mission-driven groups have come together behind one company. 

In an unprecedented milestone, Cargill and other food industry giants invested in Memphis Meats as part of the round as well as Bill Gates, Richard Branson and Atomico, one of Europe’s largest VC firms, invested in Memphis Meat’s $17M Series A round. The round was led by DFJ, a leading venture capital firm that has previously backed Tesla, SpaceX and Skype. New Crop Capital, SOSV, Fifty Years, KBW Ventures, Inevitable Ventures, Suzy and Jack Welch, Kyle Vogt, and Kimbal Musk also participated as did multiple research institutions.

Memphis Meats has now raised $22M to date which it plans to use the funds to continue developing delicious products, to accelerate its work in scaling up clean meat production, and to reduce production costs to levels comparable to – and ultimately below – conventional meat costs. 

Cargill’s interest is clearly market-driven and a sure sign that now even animal producers are accepting of the new world of protein production. “We are committed to growing our traditional protein business and investing in innovative new proteins to ultimately provide a complete basket of goods to our customers,” says Sonya McCullum Roberts, president of growth ventures, Cargill Protein. “Our investment in Memphis Meats is an exciting way for Cargill to explore the potential in this growing segment of the protein market. Memphis Meats has the potential to provide our customers and consumers with expanded protein choices and is aligned with our mission to nourish the world in a safe, responsible and Memphis Meats plans to bring clean meat products to consumers across the world, and the investor coalition brings global reach and relationships".

Memphis Meats expects to quadruple its headcount, and says it has already begun growing its team of chefs, scientists creative people and business people. “We’re going to bring meat to the plate in a more sustainable, affordable and delicious way,” says Uma Valeti, M.D., co-founder and CEO of Memphis Meats.

“The world loves to eat meat, and it is core to many of our cultures and traditions. Meat demand is growing rapidly around the world. We want the world to keep eating what it loves. However, the way conventional meat is produced today creates challenges for the environment, animal welfare and human health. These are problems that everyone wants to solve, and we can solve them by bringing this incredible group of partners under one tent. This group will help us accelerate our progress significantly.” 

Federated Farmers, Beef + Lamb, MPI, Fonterra - the clean meat driven tides of change are coming fast. Time for NZ players to ramp up its diversification and value-add strategies. Toute de suite.

NZ Beef + Lamb - It's time to go back to marketing 101

meat marketing 101

As a New Zealander, passionate about and concerned for the very future and road ahead for NZ's agricultural sector (and the deeper implications this has on our nation), these images of NZ lamb below (taken this week at a Whole Foods Market in Marin County California) concern me on many levels.

Take a moment to look at images 1 and 2 and reflect on my comments below. Especially in light of the fact that Marin County and the San Fransico Bay Area in California have some of the highest income earning and discerning consumer demographics in the whole of the US. Not to mention that Whole Foods Market is perhaps the one grocery chain that NZ's meat sector has the chance to command premium prices and brand it's NZ story.

 NZ's lamb marketed in Whole Foods, Marin County,  California

NZ's lamb marketed in Whole Foods, Marin County,  California

  • Note the "Atkins Ranch" lamb is, in fact, the New Zealand lamb selling at this Whole Foods - yet consumers would be hard-pressed to even know this if we didn't ask - since there is no obvious marketing around NZ's products.
  • Note there is ZERO obvious country of origin and marketing ( or premium marketing in general promoting NZ's superior produce in general) to explicitly distinguish between NZ premium raised product and those of the USA (which of course, would help to command higher premiums and prices)
  • Note that's there are no obvious premium grass-fed signs promoting NZ's lamb to these high paying Marin / San Francisco consumers (unless you look really closely at the sides of the cabinet where you'll see some sub par tragic cardboard branding)
  • Note that the Atkins Ranch leg of lamb (ie NZ lamb grass fed etc) is selling at ONE-THIRD of the price of the US lamb cut to its right (yes it's a different cut, BUT!). And note New Zealand's Rib Racks are still selling for less than US ribs despite NZ proclaiming to have the world's best meat.
  • Note also that Whole Foods both promotes, markets and labels all its locally produced food (which commands a premium for these vs products from say, NZ)
NZ Lamb mill valley 002.jpg

 

Despite being sold at Whole Foods - premium, grass fed, pastorally raised cuts of NZ lamb are so poorly marketed that the average consumer would be none the wiser if this meat came from NZ's "rolling green pastures" or were merely low-grade budget cuts of meat hailing from any low-grade farms in the States. 

 

 

 

 

This begs the question - How is it that, while we have known for well over a decade that premium and value-add food and produce is the only way for our economy and primary sector to safeguard long term survival, that there is still not an iota of premium market positioning of NZ and we are still churning out commodity goodness? 

No price premium. No story of provenance. Nothing but a cheap "sale" sign. 

If we can't get it right in Whole Foods California, I'd hazard a guess we certainly won't be doing any better in the Safeway, Sainsburys etc around the world. Sure, this may be an isolated event - but it hasn't been wherever I've shopped for food abroad.

While NZ's ag sector's poor understanding of Marketing 101 basics on the international market bothers me on many levels, the issue that most concerns me the most is this:

Investment into marketing and positioning of premium NZ agricultural products NOW is vital for the sector to command the revenues it desperately needs to reinvest into long-term pastoral diversification strategies, which is vital to future proof the industry and nation as the world of alternative protein markets (plant based protein and lab / clean meat) rapidly heats up.

Even if you think the whole cellular agriculture and plant-based protein movement is baloney (though I urge you not to!) how can our industry continue to survive this kind of non-existent commodity product marketing on the international marketplace?!

Our shift to premium high-value agriculture (biodynamic, traceability, organics, grass fed, premium prices, story of provenance, trusted food provider, premium customer base etc )is VITAL and is not happening quickly enough. 

Asides from fatter margins why this is important?! Because we have very little time (4 -5 years max) to pivot before consumers will have low-cost clean meat and plant-based protein options. And when this happens consumers will logically choose their locallyraised farmed for traditional agricultural products when faced with a choice. Not NZ's.

So - Beef + Lamb. Let's focus on getting the marketing 101 principles down pat - ASAP. So we can use the rewards to positively move our sector and national towards a sustainable and profitable food economy. Now, that's a tasty thought.

PRICE will Trump all as the Synthetic Meat Train Leaves the Station....

 Cellular Agriculture / Clean Meat. Source: China Dialogue

Cellular Agriculture / Clean Meat. Source: China Dialogue

My commentary and insights into cellular agriculture (lab grown meat and animal products) and plant based proteins (PBP) and the existential threat these pose to conventional animal agriculture (US feedlots) and outdoor pastoral farming systems (like NZ) has, at times, not landed lightly. Particularly by those intimately involved in the primary industry sector (understandably, who wants to hear their very livelihood is at risk?!). But also everyday naysayers in denial that the animal meat they're eating may no longer be grown inside a living animal's body in years to come.

However, one can no longer deny - lest ignore - the threat of lab-grown meat, and all those subsidiary sectors it serves (feed suppliers, co product industries, slaughter houses, freezing works, animal transportation companies, animal pharma etc), no matter how intimately connected you are to the animal agriculture industry. Even if you're one of the lucky few in farming who excel at producing the world's most sustainably produced, ethically raised and free range animal proteins (like much of NZ).

Sure, cultured meat, seafood, eggs and milk et al. are not going to replace traditional, industrialised agriculture overnight - and there’s still a fair bit of progress to be made along the cellular agriculture production value chain before manufacturing can ramp up to feed the world en masse (read my latest print investigative story in the Technology Issue of Idealog and accompanying online series which features a comprehensive expose on this). But it's clear the cultured/synthetic meat and protein train has left the station, and at a speed, even we industry proponents weren't quite expecting.

Why? Because our modern food system is such a wildly flawed business model. Environmentally, ethically, socially AND economically. And one technology and synthetic biology are more than capable of disrupting, some would argue beneficially, on so many levels.

It isn't the purpose of this story to fastidiously dive deeply into all the arguments as to why cellular agriculture and lab grown meat is superior to conventional farming (though there are many!). However, for context's sake, just some of the benefits of harvesting animals cells without the animal include: ZERO animal slaughter, longer shelf life, the ability customise nutrition (i.e. protein / fat/ vitamins and minerals content), reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, water and inputs (crops etc) use, localised and transparent urban production, quicker time to market, and the elimination of salmonella, E. coli and other hideous health threatening bacteria (read more of my commentary on these hereand here).

Of all the benefits noted above, what will be the ultimate existential nail in the coffin for animal agriculture as cellular agriculture begins its ascent into this modern exponential era? PRICE. Plain and Simple.

The takeaway? Even if you couldn't care less about animal welfare (which you should!) there's a massive business case and market opportunity for those invested in disrupting the current ag model. And ultimately price savings for those who choose to eat clean meat. 

Yes, it is true that the first lab grown meat patty, produced by Mosa Meats in 2013 at Maastricht University in the Netherlands, cost a whopping $333,000. And Memphis Meats' (the next player entering the cultured meat market) meatball cost $1,000 ($18,000/lB) in 2016. Meaning lab meat is still very much way out of the price range for the average consumer -Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos even. But, much like the exponentially declining cost of genome sequencing and other technology curves (think Moore's Law), the cost of producing the cultured meat has plummeted dramatically over the past several years since these initial world first lab grown feats. And right on queue, it looks like cellular agriculture is bang on track to follow the tried and true exponential cost reduction curve - the ultimate sign of an industry about to be born (and by extension, the death of its respective incumbent).

 Clean Meat's historical and projected cost curve. Source: Rosie Bosworth 2017 (adapted from Memphis Meats projections)

Clean Meat's historical and projected cost curve. Source: Rosie Bosworth 2017 (adapted from Memphis Meats projections)

You need only look at the 330X dramatic price drop between Mosa Meat's $330,000 beef patty and Memphis Meats' $1,000 meatball a mere 2 years later to get a rough idea of the insanely steep decline in prices to come for cellular agricultural products.

But it doesn't stop there. Since the birth of Memphis Meats' cultured meatball, in April this year, the company has successfully honed its practice to produce a pound of textured chicken or duck breast for $9,000/lB via its multi meat technology platform (meaning the company will, over time, be able to harvest ANY animal cells and displace more than just cows and chickens).

That's less than half of what it cost to produce its first pound of beef meatball 12 odd months earlier in 2016 (which BTW was way already miles ahead in price efficiency compared to Mosa Meat's patty). One can only imagine the cost curves in the next 5 years when we have these as the front runners.

pricematch.jpg

 

Memphis Meats and Mosa Meats are both optimistic they will be able to match conventional farmed alternatives within 5 to 8 years (respectively). My rudimentary image shows this steep decline. Mosa Meats (the now laggard academic player) for example, announced in 2016 that the price of producing its burger meat has since fallen to around US$30 per pound, or $11 a burger, through further development of its process since its $330,000 launch.

And Memphis Meats (the now front runner honing the business model and economics) says it's on track for a target launch of its products to consumers in 2021 - at a price comparable or less to factory farmed meat (Ie Tyson) at Costco. 2c/gram or $2/kilo to be precise. That's more than half the price of today's most abhorrently vile factory farmed chicken found at supermarkets today!! Vivre the chickenless chicken future. And get this - in the time frame of a mere 4 cattle breeding cycles (@12months each) away!

What's more, a raft of other new cell ag start ups like Super Meats, Meat the Future and Finless Foods (a particular fave of mine!) to name a few have also entered the space, which will speed up the science and cost reduction curve even faster. This means when these companies iron out all key aspects of the cell ag value chain required to scale at large, like scaling cell media, meat scaffolding and mass fermentation (which doesn't seem to be a massive hurdle long term), they'll be able to reach price parity of conventionally farmed meat pretty quickly.

Meaning lab meat's route to price parity with conventional alternatives on the market will likely happen sooner than you thought possible (granted food based legislation doesn't hold it back), even if it is an expensive delicacy to the rare few right now. Not only that, price parity will only mark the beginning of success for cell ag companies.

Once these companies get started and reach some comparable level on price it will be a virtuous cycle of success and a vicious spiral of demise for conventional ag players. Ie: The more these companies produce, the more they will benefit from economies of scale. The more price competitive they become, the quicker the mainstream market acceptance and uptake for these alternatives will be. Driving demand up and price down even further.

Quick service restaurants like McDonald's, KFC, Burger King etc and food producers like Tyson and Cargill will promote their shift to clean meat as being driven by ethical, environmental and social reasons. But the very real reasons whetting their appetites will be the economics and profits made. You get the drift.

And at this point it's safe to say it may well be the end of the road for commodity factory farm producers and possibly a slow demise for pastoral farmers - no matter how superior (ethically, pastorally raised, environmentally or sustainable) their production method currently is today, unless they sell a damn good story. Prompting a rapid decline of the animal agricultural industry and all those operating within the system (feed suppliers, co product industries, slaughter houses, freezing works, animal transporation cos, animal pharma etc).

Others like Paul Cuatrecasas, CEO of Aquaa Partners, share similar predictions and sentiments.

"Cost will be a primary driver of consumer adoption. 
....When faced with the option between buying two types of meats: one that is cheaper, cleaner and more environmentally friendly, and the other – which is not – I cannot see traditional meat winning out long term. 

He goes onto say ....Of course, the cost of traditional meat may fall too. However, its price will always be held up by the fixed cost of land, feed, and water needed to raise livestock and poultry. Lab meat does not face the same obstacles. According to a joint study by the Universities of Oxford and Amsterdam, cultured meat uses 99% less land, emits 96% fewer greenhouse gases, consumes 96% less water, and demands 45% less energy."

Yes, questions are being raised about the ability for cellular agriculture to scale, the associated environmental toll of lab meat in itself when it does scale, and the regulatory hurdles ahead as it faces the ag mafia head on (read more here on this). But like any nascent industry, we are only in the early days and when you dive deeper into the science of cell ag, these (perceived) issues are certainly far less problematic than the layman think. OR if they are, they are certainly not insurmountable.

But at the end of the day, we can deny it all we like but all else being equal, cost trumps everything- and lab meat will be no different.

The Cannibalisation of Big Food Products Imminent as Cellular Ag Proves More and More Appetising....

You know change is coming to the animal protein market when companies like Tyson Foods, one of America's larger process meat producers, decide to seize a sizeable stake of plant based meat companies like Beyond Meat. But it's taking it up a level when they also start to actively support the research and development of cellular agriculture - or the true replication of meat via DNA - just as Tyson is doing. Investing in a market that that threatens the very existence of their existing food supply model and value chain (feedlot faming and low cost conventional meat).

I've been doing some serious deep dives of late researching with and talking to the key players working within in the new Food and Ag 2.0 paradigm and the findings are both exciting and startling - depending on which way you choose to slice the onion.

Tyson (among others) recently sent, Hultz Smith, the company's principal scientist, to the Modern Agriculture Foundation’s first Cultured Meat and Path to Commercialisation Conference recently held this May. Held in Israel, the conference successfully brought together in one room an impressive lineup of attendees working in the field of cellular agriculture and tissue engineering and all the big players making inroads in this space Mosa Meats, Memphis Meats, Super Meat, etc).

The purpose of Smith heading along to a seemingly competitive industry conf? Undoubtedly to scout and scavange as much intel as he could from the scientists, researchers, academics and industry bodies leading in this space.all of whom committed to advancing and expediting this nascent yet exponentially advancing field.

Tyson isn't secretive about its efforts to bite into a chunk of this potentially new and VERY lucrative cellular ag space either as a way to provide middle America with cut price meat. Smith openly admits he's a proponent of cellular agriculture and cultured meat research. He, along with others in the org now see it as a viable substitute to current meat production as well as providing consumers a broader choice. If there's cash and margins to be made by transitioning away from factory farming why wouldn't he?

In late 2016 the company also launched a $150 million venture capital fund focusing on sustainable food solutions and alternative proteins – including cellular agriculture alternatives. “This fund is about broadening our exposure to innovative, new forms of protein and ways of producing food,” said Monica McGurk, the companies' executive vice president of strategy. CEO of the Modern Agriculture Institute, Yaron Bogan, even sees big food co's like Tyson as possible funding avenues for advancing and expediting the R&D in the cellular ag space.  “Once they (Tyson) see the prototypes are viable they will want a share of the action. I think they’ll also put in some funding and help to accelerate meeting clean meat’s technological and economical challenges” .... If this comes to pass, it will have a massive impact on the cellular and incumbent ag sectors globally.

Tyson isn’t alone in speeding up the advancements in the new food paradigm. In the past 18 months other major food companies like Campbell Foods, General Mills, Kellogg's and Fonterra have established similar strategic new venture arms. And big food cos like Isreal's largest food products manufacturer, Strauss, are now taking active interest in national Food Tech incubators and accelerators like The Kitchen foodtech hub in Isreal - making massive inroads into the alternative protein market.

These are just some of the great examples of smart strategies and initiatives New Zealand and other companies/countries could also aim to adopt as we strive to stay abreast the change in the industry. There is just so much opportunity for collaboration and reinvesting our technology and science systems to lead the pack in food technology as we move forward. Let's not get left behind!

Scaremongering #cowhater - or a messenger of valid market forces? A primer for traditional food and ag deniers

Money soil

In a recent post I shared an article about how investors worth trillions -some $1.9 worth - are putting pressure on food companies to serve more fake meat and “future-proof” their supply chains by bringing more meat alternatives to market.

In doing so I was hastily accused by a defensive New Zealander, working the traditional farming sector, of producing "scaremongering drivel" and to "wake up and smell the coffee"(who's since removed his comment). He also challenged me to produce the what he believed mythical market forces driving this.

Since I'm far from a #cowhater, but rather a well informed and very well connected researcher in the field of food and ag, I thought this would be a good time to put together a wee primer for those less versed in the field of food and the future thereof, on the market forces driving the investment into and the production of alternative meats and proteins to market.

Hopefully this list will 1) (selfishly) slow down the hate mail I get from traditional farming community 2) raise awareness on a highly important topic, and 3) pull a few Kiwi heads out from the sand...

Here we go. Just some market forces driving alternative proteins and the possible demise of feedlot and Kiwi animal ag include:

  1. $0.5 billion in food and ag synbio investment last lear alone (CB Insights)
  2. Agfunder's biotech category received 22% of the agtech funding pie (150% year on year growth since 2014)
  3. Of all the 84 agriculture focused biotech deals tracked by AgFunder in 2016 only 21 - a mere one quarter - of the technologies were focused on farm animal agriculture
  4. Increasing start ups in the celluar agriculture space (plant and DNA) too many to note here but they have almost every sentient being covered (chicken, pork, beef, duck, fish, shrimp) as well as coffee, wine, leather, silk and foie grass
  5. Increasing market demand for plant based alternatives (protein and milk)
  6.  Plant based milk fastest growing category -and commanding twice the price 
  7. Big Food companies systematically buying out plant protein / milk companies to remain relevant 
  8. Big Food cos like Tyson, General Mills, Campbell Foods, Fonterra even! establishing investment funds supporting such alternative protein production
  9. Big Food (like Tyson) scientists attending and researching cellular ag conferences and forums (economics alone are appealing to them)
  10. China setting the goal to cut its meat consumption in half by 2030
  11. Increasing middle class in China and elsewhere also increasing demand for animal products where there is not enough supply
  12. Millennials demanding more ethical sustainable and transparent food production methods... and very open to eat alternatives that baby boomers are less inclined to
  13. The expansion of plant based protein companies like Beyond Meat into Hong Kong, and Impossible Food's recent production facility in Oakland enabling it to scale and cater to 1000 restaurants and the over demand they are struggling to fulfil right now
  14. OH and the fact we need to feed an extra 2 odd billion more people in urban environments in the coming three decades that our current broken system (land, agrochemicals, diseases, ethics, antibiotics, monocultures) is wildly ill equipped for

So as you can see - there is definitely no scaremongering here. These are real market trends, and trends all food producing nations like NZ would be naive to ignore. As Jarrod Ward mentioned, the future is "mystery meat" irrespective of how it is made (lab grown or vegetable based) whether we like it or not.

But this movement also presents huge opportunities for premium food producing nations like NZ to clean up our act and establish a premium, transparent and sustainable food producing niche for us to command deli premiums and export dollars .... A whole new thesis I'll save for another post.

#foodfuturist #agtech #food #synbio #biotech #plantbasedmeat #cleanmeat

Could synthetic biology be the Paris panacea we're all waiting for?

 Photo courtesy of The Good Food Institute

Photo courtesy of The Good Food Institute

The cracks in pastoral agriculture's massively flawed business model are starting to show. Technologies like cellular agriculture (clean meat) and plant based protein will be one of the saving graces of our global food system as we move towards a world of 9.6 billion mouths to feed. Yet most climate agreements and strategies to reduce emissions still seem to want to talk about on farm technology as a way to reduce ag's emissions... WTF!?! We are just shifting the chairs of the titanic with this thinking...We need a new boat! 

Last year Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google's parent, Alphabet, a man who has spent the bulk of his career predicting how technology can change the world, was was asked what six technological innovation were going to transform life for huminty in a positive way by a factor of at elast ten fold in the very near future. The first technology he led with? Plant based meat - Nerds over cattle. Not self driving cars, 3D printing or virtual reality (although they were on this list). But plant based meat. Enough said. 

Read more on why synthetic biology has the potential to flip the script on conventional pastoral ag in the coming decades in my opinion piece the wild inefficiencies of conventional ag and what this means for agriculture and climate agreements....

 

Sayonara Toyota and BP, Transportation as a Service (TaaS) is arriving !

It is with absolute excitement to announce the launch of RethinkX - a leading edge think tank of which I was part of the founding in San Francisco last year with a great team.

Today th think tank  the first of many reports (a must read!) on the future of our industries was released .... “Rethinking Transportation 2020-2030: The Disruption of Transportation and the Collapse of the ICE Vehicle and Oil Industries.”

The implications are wicked - as Motherboard Vice suggests the Robot Revolution will take your car, your Mom’s car, and all the Oil in 13 Years....

...this also means  Starbucks on wheels as we travel for free....  or better yet, for we women,,, pedicures on the run!

Download the free report at rethinkx.com

NBR: ROSIE BOSWORTH on why New Zealand is becoming the Detroit of agriculture

Sunday Business ANdrew PAtterson .jpg

In a recent interview with NBR I recently talked to Andrew Paterson about the Future of Agriculture for New Zealand and the impact technology and synthetic biology will have on our sector... The except from the interview and website is pasted below - and you can listen to the podcast here

/// New Zealand needs to pay more attention to how science is revolutionising the agriculture industry or it will end up as the “Detroit of agriculture.”

This is according to Dr Rosie Bosworth, who joins Andrew Patterson on this week’s episode of Sunday Business.

“Agriculture is inherently unsustainable; it’s a huge sucker of water and resources,” she says.  

“It’s highly greenhouse gas intensive and it’s not really able to scale to the huge population growth that’s going to happen by 2050.”

She says New Zealand could be in for a shock, given how quickly agricultural technology is developing.

The number of biotech companies producing products such as beef, eggs, pork and milk in a lab has been on the rise, with the cost of production plummeting in the last half decade.

Many scientists expect “animal” products grown in a lab for human consumption will continue to grow in popularity.

This is a problem for New Zealand, Dr Bosworth says.

“It is really akin to what happened in Detroit with the car manufacturing where they just did not see other players coming into the market from the outside that could really rattle their cages.”

The primary industry contributes more than $22 billion to New Zealand’s economy each year, which is 10% of the country’s total GDP, according to figures from the Ministry of Primary Industries.

Despite the risks lab-grown agriculture products pose to the economy, Dr Bosworth says as a country New Zealand is extremely complacent about what’s going on – “our heads are in the sand.”

“It’s not as if I’m looking at this as ‘agriculture, you have really screwed up, I don’t like the ethics involved,’ I’m just looking at the whole picture,” she says.

“If we look at the costs involved when cellular agriculture is scaled and it gets to the point where it is the same price as New Zealand commodities, it is a dubious position for our country to be in – how can a commodity compete when such innovation hits the market at scale?”

Copyright NBR. Cannot be reproduced without permission.
Read more: https://www.nbr.co.nz/mob-rosie-bosworth
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In response to farmers and their beef: It's not me, it's the market!

angry-farmer2.jpg

Over the course of the past few years, I have observed, watched, written and spoken at numerous conferences, forums and events about how technology and science are changing the face of agriculture and food. In particular, the risk this poses traditional pastoral agricultural sectors and farmers operating in the commodity and factory farming market.

I publish this work and research not because I am out "to get" agriculture, or piss off Kiwi farmers (or any others at that). Not because I think I'm special or because I love bandying about the "disruption" overused buzzword. But because stats, advancements and investment in technology are speaking volumes for an imminent industry shake up ahead.

Because the massive and rapid market advancements occurring in technology and biotech like cellular agriculture (lab made meat), controlled environment farming (indoor vertical farms) and the plant microbiome (biological seed and crop development) say so. Because of a growing millennial consumer based demanding better ways of food production and animal farming. Because of the mind boggling sums of investment and VC going into ventures refining how food is grown and made. Because the market says so. And someone needs to be the messenger. No matter how bleak the message.

The current market trends, science and technology progression and investment into thereof, quite simply, are a dead giveaway of what is coming. A trifecta recipe of disruption for conventional ag. And the emergence of the new world of Ag2.0. Why. Can't. We. Just. Accept. This?

Just read my recent story Synthetic Biology vs Paris or one my of my more controversial pieces aptly titled - The Detroit of Agriculture - if you need some numbers or more proof.

But still, despite the numbers, the trends and the trailblazers I provide by way as example in my research, the agricultural sector, especially in NZ, seems to be constantly in denial of the market trends. I regularly receive hate mail, abuse and less than complementary comments from not only the agricultural community and from Kiwi farmers who feel their very existence threatened, but also from technological naysayers and members of the business community at large. So blinded by the cow, by the milky way they've creamed for the past several decades, they can not see the technological tidal wave coming crashing into their back paddocks.

Who instead of accepting the trends, the facts and the numbers, seem to think I am scaremongering and causing a mythical song and dance the industry needn't worry about. After all, as a "privileged middle class urban female", with "no history in farming", who am I to foresee the potentially dubious future ahead for conventional agriculture?

To some extent, as an isolated island nation far away from the coal face of new technological development and progress affecting the industry, I can understand how Kiwi farmers may think that the world will always want their animal raised produce. Their experience of the world is largely through the silo'ed lens of their rural back paddock. With no view of the new technology emerging in far away lands that millennial will undoubted embrace. So this resistance is to be somewhat expected.

But resistance and denial is futile. And a sentiment clearly echoed by Simon Mainwaring, CEO of global brand firm, We First, in a recent NBR interview with Andrew Patterson. A man who knows his stuff and with years of experience in observing the demise of brands and sectors,  Simon presented a global message that Kiwi farmer and industry bodies (MPI, MBIE, Callaghan, MFAT et al) be wise to take heed of.

“The only thing that is truly dangerous, is to not change. If you look at the impact, the pace of change of technology these days and the shifting expectations of demographics. And if you look at our heightened awareness of the cultural landscape in which all businesses operate in the market. - if you don’t move with the market place you will become one of those many casualties"  - Simon Mainwaring

I repeat for effect: If you don’t move with the market place you will become one of those many casualties.

Millennials (the world's now largest and most progressive and influential customer base) don’t care how long farmers have been around, how long their parents or grandparents loved a certain brand, or the way things were done in the past. There’s no brand loyalty any more. And when the baby boomers are gone, there will be even less. What today's consumers want is a solution that is meaningful and relevant to them - in real time. They want food produced ethically, cleanly, close to urban centres. If this involves new technology - then so be it. They will be the first to adopt it.

Instead of farmers denying the tides of technological change. Instead of trolling journalists and researchers, the agricultural sector would be wise to examine the very real market and technology trends effecting every sector - including their own. To accept the changing demographics and the rapid advancements affecting their industry and plan their strategies to meet this shift. And to realise that complacency, denial and finger pointing will only lead to a more quicker demise of faming future. Not because I said so, but because the market knows best.

All Systems Go as Synthetic Bio Regulation Gets its Time at the Table

 MOODBOARD VIA GETTY IMAGES

MOODBOARD VIA GETTY IMAGES

You know that cellular agriculture and synthetic biology is fast en route towards disrupting our conventional food and ag systems when the White House starts to sit up and take notice. Capitol Hill recently commissioned the American National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to produce a report Preparing for Future Products of Biotechnology to identify the impact of and products likely to be produced using biotechnology in the next 10 years. Clean meat and cellular agriculture products (wine, meat, dairy, microbiomes et al) were flagged as areas of high growth potential.  Surprise Surprise!! 

The report even went so far as to recommend regulatory agencies develop “single point of entry” to streamline the regulatory approval process for the imminent entree of synbio products onto the market. And an entire section titled: Opportunities to Enhance the Capabilities of the Biotechnology Regulatory System - was dedicated towards the topic. 

Why is this important? To date, the issue around how to regulate cellular ag, clean meat and synbio-led food production - especially lab grown animal cells - has as been a precarious and uncertain topic for investors, entrepreneurs and investors alike. Meat production regulation assumes animal slaughter - so no slaughter houses make the USDA's (and most of the world's) standards for regulating meat production essentially defunct and useless for the much needed renegades trying to decouple the animal and the slaughter for food/ protein production. Tackling the regulation of synbio produced food at a federal level provides a clear signal to (i.e more stable climate) those entrepreneurs and investors who are paving the way forwards towards a safer, more ethical and sustainable global food production system.

A concerning thought if you’re in pastoral farming. Especially ag-export dependant nations like New Zealand. Food 1.0's time might just come faster than expected. But a massive milestone for mankind as we strive to pave the way forward for developing sustainable and ethical systems to cater for an increasingly flawed and vulnerable food system ill catered to meet our current and future food needs. Vive Synbio!!!