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From the Community: Feeding the Bottom Billion with Biotech by Ryan Bethencourt

by Ryan Bethencourt

This post isn’t about aid to the poorest countries on this planet, or how we can more effectively distribute existing scarce resources, solve social or governmental conflicts in the roughly 60+ countries in which the poorest members of humanity live today, the bottom billion.

This is about how we can harness leapfrog biotechnologies to feed them all and do it profitably.

One largely under discussed area in developed countries, which are well fed and often over fed, is the power of biotechnology and GMO’s to feed those who still die of hunger, who go to bed hungry and who still dream of some form of food stability.

Biotechnology can finally deliver on these hopes and the dreams of NGO’s everywhere if they only let us.

At IndieBio, one of the things we’re most passionate about is using biology as a technology to serve 7+ billion people on this planet, not just silicon valley or even developed economies.

We still value capitalism but we think, with biology, as an exponential technology, our markets are truly global and during the process of funding 42 biotech’s over the last year, we’ve found something interesting in the arcane niches of fermentation scale up technology…. food prices don’t always have to rise.

Biotech could be used to drop the cost of food exponentially.


It starts with an understanding of fermentation scale up, once you’ve learned how to reprogram a yeast or bacterial cell to make a certain protein, let’s say gelatin (which is normally animal derived), you can scale that, in theory exponentially and in practice very rapidly.

So what should the cost of fermentation derived foods be? A little more than the cost of sugar water.

That means anything that any biological system can make, from hamburgers to chocolate to corn, should be, one day fermentable, starting at first with individual proteins like gelatin and scaling upwards to more complex structures like meat and steaks.

So we worked backwards at IndieBio, in what we’re now calling Shigeta’s Law and calculated out that a bacterial or yeast strains, over a 15 yr period (or sooner) could be optimized to reduce the cost of goods sold from $1000’s of dollars per pound to pennies per pound.

This is based on standard fermentation strain optimization knowledge and we believe, this is a new type of Moore’s law for biotech derived foods and molecular manufacturing that could allow all of humanity to eat well, even those living only on dollars a day ethically, with a minimal environmental foot print and and yet providing the same nourishment we all expect from good food.

With today’s biotechnologies, we can realistically feed the bottom billion with exponentially reducing costs and that’s what we’re planning on doing.

Source: Feeding the Bottom Billion with Biotech. — I. M. H. O. — Medium


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