I soon learnt that Formo is doing something quite amazing: making cheese without cows!
More specifically, Formo is genetically engineering microbes to produce casein and whey, the two integral proteins of cheese. As a result, we no longer need a whole cow for producing dairy products.
As Lauri Reuter, Partner at Nordic FoodTech VC, stated in his interview with Survivaltech.club a few weeks back, we are now experiencing “the second wave of domestication”. We are domesticating microbes to be our food production machinery.
Before, we needed a tool that was a size of a cow to make our food. Now we can use microbes to do the same thing. (More about this next week!)
🦠The basics - what are microbes?
Let’s start from the top. What are these microbes?
Microbes (a.k.a microorganisms) are tiny organisms. They are so tiny that we humans need a microscope to see the most types of microbes.
There are many kinds of microbes. There’s bacteria, fungi, and algae. Some also consider viruses as microbes.
In more scientific terms, microbes are microscopic organisms that are unicellular (single-cell) or form a colony of cells.
To experience the beauty and variety of microorganisms, I can highly recommend the Journey to the Microcosmos- Youtube channel. It features some extraordinary microorganisms under a microscope. (Relaxing music, too.)
Microbes help keep our environment clean. They play a crucial part in our wastewater treatment systems.
Purifying the wastewater is a feast for the microbes. What we flush down the toilets is pretty disgusting. But for microbes, it’s yummy. Microbes eat and thereby decompose the organic matter of the sewage.
Microbes save our lives. They help produce many antibiotics that fight off deadly bacteria.
The first-ever antibiotic was penicillin. Alexander Fleming discovered it in 1928. Penicillin is naturally produced by Penicillium molds (fungi) via the fermentation process. The production of penicillin is made in large fermentation tanks.
In addition to Penicillium molds, there’s a variety of fungi and bacteria that produce different kinds of valuable antibiotics. For example, tetracycline, which I took a while ago for treating acne, is produced by Streptomyces type bacteria.