Op Ed: Erik Amundson, CEO and Co-Founder of Vevolution, on Plant Cell Culture Tech – vegconomist

Erik Amundson, CEO and co-founder of Vevolution, here discusses plant cell culture technology. $896 million was invested into cultivated solutions in 2022, with Upside Foods raising an industry-accelerating $400M round. Investors are now actively investing in not only center plate meat alternatives, but also in the auxiliary and plant cell culture market of gelatin, chocolate, coffee, and other products.

Imagine a world without coffee

By Erik Amundson

I’m not a coffee snob by any means, but I drink it every day. The warm, energizing nourishment to kick off my anxiety-fueled morning as a co-founder is something I look forward to. Espresso, lattes, cold brew, I mean all of it is just such a huge part of our culture as a society. Now imagine a world without it. 

cultivated coffee
Cultivated Coffee © California Cultured

Over 2 billion cups of coffee are consumed daily. Over 9 billion kg of coffee is produced annually, and the coffee demand is expected to triple by 2050. So here’s the bad news. Coffee is expected to be wiped from the planet by 2080. Over 50% of suitable land for coffee will be gone by 2050.

This is because coffee has strict growing conditions as temperatures between 18 to 21 degrees Celsius, lots of rain, and a laborious production process are all required to bring us the magic juice. Climate change is raising our global temperatures, which means that the delicate tipping point of 21 degrees will be reached.

Chocolate, vanilla, avocados 

Mother Nature is losing her sh*t when it comes to practically every delicious commodity. Chocolate, vanilla, and avocados are all crops that are expected to be essentially extinct for the same reasons as coffee. These crops want to grow in specific conditions, and our planet is getting really warm. You can’t magically grow crops if it’s too warm, too dry, or if essentially anything on our precious planet is not perfect. I’d really like to eat avocado toast and vanilla ice cream with my grandchildren. 

OZO Bacon Avocado Toast

Thanks to the brilliant scientists around the world advancing plant cell culture technology, maybe we will still be able to buy our $15 avocado toast after all. But how does plant cell culture work? Who are the companies scaling these solutions? Who are the investors eyeing the opportunity? Will consumers adopt these solutions?

The future of auxiliary and plant cell culture 

If I were a betting man, which I am, I’d remain bullish on these applications. Plant cell culture technology is scientifically similar to how cultivated meat is produced. Coffee or cacao varieties are collected, and a handful of cells are taken from the plant. These cells are then fueled by other plant nutrients and placed in biomanufacturing equipment that mimics the conditions the crops need to grow.

The cacao and coffee are ready to harvest in just a few days. These plants also don’t need an expensive growth medium like cultivated meat does, typically priced at at least $10/liter (down from hundreds of dollars).

California Cultured in lab
©California Cultured

California Cultured breaks the process down well here. The company raised a $4M Seed round in 2021, and researchers in Finland produced cultured coffee.

Auxiliary products are around every corner. Jellatech raised $2M to bring cultivated gelatin and collagen to market for both healthcare and food solutions. 

The cellular agriculture market is set to hit $100Bn+ over the coming years, what might the market share be for auxiliary or plant cell technology applications? Here’s how I see it. We all have that uncle who says he would never try alternative protein. Maybe there are other low-hanging fruit to invest and scale into.

My guess is that no one will blink an eye about how their morning coffee is produced in 2030. Investors can find these companies raising now on Vevolution. 

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