Happy Friday from L.A., where I came for a weekend of fancy toast, museum-hopping, and sipping as much green juice as my wallet can handle.
Just a short way down the coast is the headquarters of Beyond Meat, the startup whose plant-based burgers are making their way onto the plates of vegetarians and carnivores alike, including Bill Gates. This week, the Microsoft founder curated MIT Technology Review’s annual list of Top 10 Breakthrough Technologies of 2019, and named plant-based burgers one of his picks. (He has invested in both Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods in the past.)
That wasn’t the only news around plant-based protein this week. Impossible Foods announced that it was bringing its famous “bleeding” meat to Singapore!
Impossible’s burgers get their bloody appearance from heme, which the startup’s scientists make through a process that involves genetically engineered yeast. They’re not the only ones using yeast to make better-tasting meat alternatives: New company Motif Ingredients (a spinoff of Ginkgo Bioworks), which just launched this week, uses modified yeast to “brew” proteins intended for use in plant-based foods. This could lead to an influx of new meat alternative startups, as companies would no longer need their own expensive R&D lab and team of scientists in order to develop an animal-free product.
But genetically modified yeast can make a lot more than just protein. This week, scientists from Berkeley announced they had developed a way to use genetically modified yeast to create CBD and THC.
That’s right, the active components of Mary Jane can be grown in a lab. So in addition to bread, protein, beer, and milk, we can now add weed to the list of things that yeast can make. That’s one mighty microbe.
Let’s shift gears a minute to one of our all-time favorite topics: robots. Also pizza.
This week resident Spoon robo-expert Chris wrote about FedEx’s new delivery robot which can navigate stairs to deliver packages — or a piping-hot pizza — to your doorstep. He also covered Basil Street, a company developing automated pizza vending machines that can cook a pie in three minutes flat. In non-pizza robot news, the makers of Julia, a countertop cooking robot, raised an undisclosed amount of funding this week.
Seems like there’s a lot of really exciting innovation a-brewing in the world of food robotics, eh? If you want to join the conversation, we’re having a Slack Chat dedicated to the topic of automation in food TODAY at 10:30 a.m. PST. Experts from Byte Foods, Augean Robotics, and Kiwi Technology will be joining, and it’s sure to be valuable and, most importantly, fun. Sign up for our Slack Channel (it’s free and super easy, promise) to join. See you then!
Still can’t get enough robots? (We can’t, either.) Our food robotics and automation summit ArticulATE is happening April 16 at General Assembly in downtown San Francisco. If you want a teaser, this week we spoke with Linda Pouliot, CEO and founder of Dishcraft Robotics (yep, she’ll be at ArticulATE!), about what sort of kitchen tasks robots are suited for — and which ones are best left to humans. Early Bird Tickets for the summit are on sale now — get ’em while they’re hot.
With that, it’s time to eat tacos until I can’t eat tacos no mo. Peace.