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Fermenting a more sustainable future

In the battle against the climate crisis, precision fermentation presents a hopeful aid. Using microbes to create valuable materials, we can help to transform the global economy and shift away from harmful agricultural and industrial practices. However, despite the support of industry and Venture Capital cash, this field still faces many challenges. Though promising, we need further investment in this innovative technology before it can fully deliver on its potential for sustainable solutions.
Nicky Deasy is Co-Founder and former Managing Partner at The Yield Lab Europe, one of the largest early-stage venture capital funds in the EU focused on the intersection of sustainability and agtech. Since stepping back from the day-to-day running of the fund, she is an Investment Committee Member at biotope by VIB, as well as advising a number of startups and investment funds focused on improving the environmental and carbon footprint of the agrifood industry. She shares her thoughts on how innovative ag- and food-tech startups can help us tackle climate change.
Belgian-American AB InBev, the world's largest brewer, has set up a separate R&D division called BioBrew to develop animal-free proteins using precision fermentation. Quite a number of companies are already focused on producing alternative proteins, which don’t cause harm to animals and are more sustainable, but they generally lack the capacity to produce them on a commercial level. This is one of the things that sets BioBrew apart, thanks to AB InBev’s knowhow of using yeast fermentation on a large scale to make beer.
Batteries are a crucial component of the energy transition away from fossil fuels, but the technology currently faces issues with sustainable recycling methods, which are vital for recuperating the rare raw materials inside the power cells. The European ACROBAT consortium, led by Flemish research center VITO, is tackling this issue specifically for LFP batteries – a type of lithium-ion batteries that are steadily growing in importance, including for electric cars.
How are we going to feed an expected 10 billion people by 2050 in a sustainable way? It is a daunting task. Our climate is changing, and a combination of environmental and economic factors are already resulting in widespread food shortages. There is no simple solution to this problem, but innovation in the food and agtech sector will help alleviate the burden. To make this possible, stakeholders – including researchers, entrepreneurs, investors, and governments – need to make agrifood innovation a priority immediately.
Venture capitalists have a vital role to play in guiding our planet’s future. By investing in technological advances that remediate environmental ruination, enable adaptation to new conditions, and heal challenging diseases, VC funds can help improve the world while also benefiting their bottom line. But there is an even bolder approach available to VCs who really want to do good: influencing governments by earmarking funds for advocacy groups.
Much has been said about the huge economic potential of algae, but this ‘green gold’ has yet to meet expectations. The European project IDEA – led by Belgian research center VITO – is examining the economic benefits of microalgae and developing strategies to overcome remaining challenges. Interim results show that algae can very well be grown in the climate of Northwestern Europe and can be used to efficiently produce products such as healthy biscuits, animal feed and cosmetic applications.
Belgian GreenTech company H2WIN has developed H2GREEN: an ingenious system to make hydrogen production 100% renewable, more efficient, less expensive, and less energy consuming. Based in Nivelles, H2WIN drew inspiration from nature’s own ancient methods of generating energy: photosynthesis. The company is currently looking for funding to finance the next steps towards industrial-scale production.
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In the battle against the climate crisis, precision fermentation presents a hopeful aid. Using microbes to create valuable materials, we can help to transform the global economy and shift away from harmful agricultural and industrial practices. However, despite the support of industry and Venture Capital cash, this field still faces many challenges. Though promising, we need further investment in this innovative technology before it can fully deliver on its potential for sustainable solutions.
Nicky Deasy is Co-Founder and former Managing Partner at The Yield Lab Europe, one of the largest early-stage venture capital funds in the EU focused on the intersection of sustainability and agtech. Since stepping back from the day-to-day running of the fund, she is an Investment Committee Member at biotope by VIB, as well as advising a number of startups and investment funds focused on improving the environmental and carbon footprint of the agrifood industry. She shares her thoughts on how innovative ag- and food-tech startups can help us tackle climate change.
Belgian-American AB InBev, the world's largest brewer, has set up a separate R&D division called BioBrew to develop animal-free proteins using precision fermentation. Quite a number of companies are already focused on producing alternative proteins, which don’t cause harm to animals and are more sustainable, but they generally lack the capacity to produce them on a commercial level. This is one of the things that sets BioBrew apart, thanks to AB InBev’s knowhow of using yeast fermentation on a large scale to make beer.
Batteries are a crucial component of the energy transition away from fossil fuels, but the technology currently faces issues with sustainable recycling methods, which are vital for recuperating the rare raw materials inside the power cells. The European ACROBAT consortium, led by Flemish research center VITO, is tackling this issue specifically for LFP batteries – a type of lithium-ion batteries that are steadily growing in importance, including for electric cars.
How are we going to feed an expected 10 billion people by 2050 in a sustainable way? It is a daunting task. Our climate is changing, and a combination of environmental and economic factors are already resulting in widespread food shortages. There is no simple solution to this problem, but innovation in the food and agtech sector will help alleviate the burden. To make this possible, stakeholders – including researchers, entrepreneurs, investors, and governments – need to make agrifood innovation a priority immediately.
Venture capitalists have a vital role to play in guiding our planet’s future. By investing in technological advances that remediate environmental ruination, enable adaptation to new conditions, and heal challenging diseases, VC funds can help improve the world while also benefiting their bottom line. But there is an even bolder approach available to VCs who really want to do good: influencing governments by earmarking funds for advocacy groups.
Much has been said about the huge economic potential of algae, but this ‘green gold’ has yet to meet expectations. The European project IDEA – led by Belgian research center VITO – is examining the economic benefits of microalgae and developing strategies to overcome remaining challenges. Interim results show that algae can very well be grown in the climate of Northwestern Europe and can be used to efficiently produce products such as healthy biscuits, animal feed and cosmetic applications.
Belgian GreenTech company H2WIN has developed H2GREEN: an ingenious system to make hydrogen production 100% renewable, more efficient, less expensive, and less energy consuming. Based in Nivelles, H2WIN drew inspiration from nature’s own ancient methods of generating energy: photosynthesis. The company is currently looking for funding to finance the next steps towards industrial-scale production.