Leading Silicon Valley investors are funding Hampton Creek Foods, a promising startup housed in a garage-like space in San Francisco that is on a mission to find plant replacements for eggs. Hampton Creek has received support from top-flight investors, including Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Paypal co-founder Peter Thiel, and Khosla Ventures, a venture capital fund established by Sun Microsystems co-founder Vinod Khosla.
In the food laboratory of Hampton Creek Foods, biochemists are busy grinding up beans and conducting microscopic analyses of their molecular structure, looking for plants that can satisfactorily fulfill the culinary functions of eggs. The company has so far analyzed about 1,500 types of plants from more than 60 countries. The company’s CEO, Josh Tetrick, says that the research has already resulted in 11 “hits.”
Tetrick says that his company’s approach is to utilize plants that are much more sustainable, with reduced greenhouse gas emissions, less consumption of water, do not involve animals and are much more affordable – all in order to create a better food system. Plant-based substitutes for eggs, poultry and other meat products could be good for the environment. The backers of the idea believe that with reduced consumption of meat, the usage of land, water and crops could be cut down substantially.
The backers also believe that people’s health could improve with plant-based substitutes, particularly in heavily meat-eating countries such as the United States. The outbreaks of diseases such as avian flu could be reduced. Claire Kremen, faculty co-director of the Berkeley Food Institute at the University of California, Berkeley, says that the real challenge will be to convince meat-lovers to try something different. The American Egg Board, which represents U.S. producers, says that eggs cannot be replaced.
The trend among venture capitalists to invest in food-related startups is on the rise. Last year venture capital firms poured nearly $350 million into food-related startups, in contrast to less than $50 million invested in 2008.
Source: CBS Local
Image Credit: Flickr via jronaldlee
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