My mission is to support and empower the next generation of climate tech leaders to solve the climate crisis. I strongly believe that science and innovation are the answer to this emergency and that the time to act is now!
On a personal level, I am currently wrapping up my studies at ETH Zürich in Data Science. I try to be continuously exposed to the startup scene through awesome projects like Survivaltech.club and Wingman Campus Fund (WCF). At WCF, we discover and financially support tech startups in Switzerland.
I bumped into Survivaltech.club’s newsletter over the internet. After a few months of reading it, I decided to contribute to this enthusiastic community. Thanks to Pauliina’s willingness to give this collaboration a shot, here I am!
You’ll hear from Matteo in the upcoming weeks. His deep dives and interviews are already on their way!
I am personally super excited to start building Survivaltech.club with someone. It has also led me to think about the future of Survivaltech.club. More about that soon :)
Now, let’s turn to startups that are solving climate change with microbes!
🌍Microbe x climate startups
As we learnt in Part 1 -deep dive on microbes, our humankind already uses microbes in various industries (food production, wastewater treatment, pharmaceutics etc.).
With recent advancements in biotechnology (like CRISPR), startups are now bringing novel solutions to the market. For example, several startups use microbes as production machinery for animal-free dairy products, proteins, fats, materials, chemicals, and even coffee!
🧀Animal-free dairy products
This group of startups are replacing cows as the production machines of dairy products. Instead of cows, they are using microbes to produce dairy products.
Now you may ask: “aren’t we already using microbes to produce, for example, cheese today?”
Yes, you’re correct! Nowadays, we use microbes as assistants in the cheese-making process. Bacteria break down lactose, milk sugar and, as a result, produce lactic acid. This lactic acid makes the milk proteins clump together and form cheese. [This Youtube video gives an excellent overview.]
What these startups are doing is that they are creating proteins found in milk, casein and whey, with microbes. Microbes are genetically programmed to produce these proteins.
Solar Foods and Air Protein are making protein out of air. This may sound like magic, but it’s true, thanks to microbes!
Both Solar Foods and Air Protein use a type of microbe called hydrogenotrophs. These microbes require carbon dioxide and hydrogen to grow. Once the microbes have multiplied, they can be turned into a fine protein powder. This protein powder has all the essential amino acids that we humans need!
Watch below a great TED-talk by Dr. Lisa Dyson, Founder & CEO of Air Protein.
EniferBio, on the other hand, produces fish feed out of fungi. They aim at replacing soybean with their “PEKILO” mycoprotein in fish feed.
As we learnt in Survivaltech.club’s deep dive on the forest, we’ve turned half of the world’s habitable land for agricultural use. Furthermore, 77%(!) of this land in agriculture is used to grow livestock or to grow feed for the livestock.
Why should we make materials, chemicals, and fuels with microbes?
To put it simply, we can reduce our dependency on fossil fuels with these methods! As we know, the production of plastics and synthetic textiles are heavily dependent on fossil fuels, not to mention the production of fuels and chemicals.
These novel ways of production are steering our way into a future where our humankind’s survival from climate change is possible.
Which microbe x climate startups did I miss? Write them in the comments section on Substack, or send an email to me!
I hope this deep dive gave you a good overview of how people are tackling climate change with tiny yet so powerful microbes.
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See you soon, Human!
Bunn, C., Läderach, P. Rivera, O. O. and Kirschke, D. (2015). A bitter cup: climate change profile of global production of Arabica and Robusta coffee. Climatic Change, 129, pp. 89-101. Link.
Crippa, M., Solazzo, E., Guizzardi, D., Monforti-Ferrario, F., Tubiello, F. N. and Leip, A. (2021). Food systems are responsible for a third of global anthropogenic GHG emissions. Nature Food, 2, pp. 198-209. Link.
Nab, C. and Maslin, M. (2020). Life cycle assessment synthesis of the carbon footprint of Arabica coffee: Case study of Brazil and Vietnam conventional and sustainable coffee production and export to the United Kingdom. Geo: Geography and Environment, 7(2). Link.
Ritchie, H. and Roser, M. (2020). CO₂ and Greenhouse Gas Emissions. Link.
Rotz, C. A. (2017). Modeling greenhouse gas emissions from dairy farms. Journal of Dairy Science, 101(7), pp. 6675-6690. Link.
Thornton, A. (2019). This is how many animals we eat each year. World Economic Forum. Link.
de Vries et al. (2019). Entry Points for Reduction of greenhouse Gas Emissions in Small-Scale Dairy Farms: Looking beyond Milk Yield Increase. Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems, 3(49). Link.