Plant based protein
NotCo’s pitch is a grand one: to completely disrupt the factory-farm food system. The company argues that its proprietary machine-learning algorithm can efficiently sort through a complicated web of consumer food needs (nutrition and sustainability, but also mouthfeel, flavor, color, etc.), allowing NotCo to bring successful, delicious vegan alternatives to stores and upend animal-based markets in the process.
For the IndieBio team, the fact that the startup’s first product was already on the market proved that NotCo could deliver. But the machine-learning algorithm is what really has Gupta and Bethencourt excited.
Through the WI lens
It’s important to keep an eye on to what extent tech might disrupt food. A few months ago, Eric Schmidt (the chairman of Alphabet – Google’s parent company) dubbed the plant-based meat industry the no. 1 trend in tech. Today, the biggest players in the food tech scene are funded by some of the most prominent private investors in the world (like Eric Schmidt or Bill Gates) who understand that the nutritional and environmental benefits of meat and dairy replacements make the disruptive companies especially attractive to investors. To put things into perspective: China alone will import 1 million tons of beef in 2018.
This article describes how one start-up using machine-learning algorithms to replace animal proteins with vegan alternatives became a vegan-mayo company once valued at $1.1 billion. Machine learning in food is particularly challenging because of the subjectivity of taste, so it’s too early to tell how these ventures will evolve and how profitable they’ll ultimately be. Some people worry that the food tech industry is racing forward, fueled by venture capital, a lot of hype, and “without much regard for any consequences”.
There is no doubt, however, that the big incumbents (the Nestlés of this world) are at risk of being disrupted. They are not alone: the underlying idea of using a machine-learning algorithm to more efficiently account for a wide array of consumer desires can be used for different industries, skincare companies for example.
What this article goes on to explain is how positive thinking – described here as ‘thriving’ – can counter the effects that come from the negativity outlined above, from reduced memory to diminished performance. Based on studying people in a series of organisations in different industries, one of the authors has found that people who attain this state are more resilient, experience less burnout, and are more confident in their ability to take control of a situation
“Behind the jargon what this is really about is how we address the challenge of biodiversity under threat, move away from fossil materials like plastic and concrete, and use nature in a sustainable way, all of which could be summed up by “living in harmony with nature”.”
“In the new ‘consensual contract’ between employer and worker, what’s required is a commitment from the employer to safeguard the wellbeing of their people, and a commitment in return from employees to take personal responsibility for their performance of their job.”
“Could loneliness not only be damaging our mental and physical health but also be making the world a more aggressive, angry place? And if so, what are the implications for a cohesive society and democracy?”
“On such fragile foundations are built the first steps towards a more ethical kind of business, and who knows what virtuous circles might result?”
“Scientific evidence recently emerged that, contrary to earlier beliefs, Covid-19 can be spread by tiny droplets that we breathe out when we respire, called aerosols.”
“Economic wellbeing is part of the story, but it is also about finding less stressful lifestyles, in which healthy diet figures as a meaningful measure of success.”
“The industry has every asset needed to be a guiding light in the shift toward personal health priority. Will that become a prevention legacy, a ‘phoenix rising’ from the Covid-19 ashes?”
“Looking at the bigger picture, putting the measures in this order represents a lost opportunity that the pandemic could have offered for a cultural pivot pivot towards getting people more focused on their health, a powerful statement of intent.”
“Employment is necessary to fulfil our most basic human needs such as food and shelter. Any significant increase in long-term unemployment will spell a retrograde step for human wellbeing like no other.”