Lab-grow alternative to palm oil in development

By Michelle Perrett

- Last updated on GMT

The new alternative to palm oil is in development
The new alternative to palm oil is in development

Related tags: Supply chains

A UK-based food-tech business developing cultivated food, has announced that it is one step closer to producing a viable yeast-based alternative to palm oil.

The Clean Food Group said that a ‘lab grown’ cellular-based alternative could help reduce the detrimental environmental impact of a range of palm-based ingredients that can be found in nearly 50% of all packaged products found on our supermarket shelves. 

The company acquired relevant intellectual property from the University of Bath where the technology has been developed over the last eight years by Professor Chris Chuck and his team.

Clean Food Group has also signed a two-year collaboration agreement with the University to scale the technology and bring its palm oil alternative to market. Professor Chris Chuck has joined Clean Food Group as a technical advisor and leads a team of scientists at a dedicated Clean Food Group laboratory and Pilot Plant at the University of Bath. 

Environmental cost

Christopher Chuck, Clean Food Group Technical Advisor and Professor of Bioprocess Engineering in Bath’s Department of Chemical Engineering, said: “Our dependence on palm oil comes at a great environmental cost. We’ve worked over many years to create robust palm oil alternatives that give us a real chance to cut the impact of a range of products that until now have only been possible to produce with palm oil and the deforestation, pollution and emissions that come with it.”​ 

Agronomics, the leading listed company focused on the field of cellular agriculture, has led Clean Food Group’s financing rounds to-date including their recently completed seed round of £1.65m, with Agronomics holding a 35% interest in the company. 

Alex Neves, co-founder and CEO of Clean Food Group said: “With this funding round now successfully completed, we are not only well capitalised to complete the next stage of our corporate development, but are also well placed to take the next step on the path to bringing our palm oil alternative, an ingredient with the potential to solve substantial environmental, food security, health and working environment challenges within the incumbent palm oil supply chain, to market.”

Soy cultivation

The news comes as supermarkets Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose have invested US$11m (£9m) in the Responsible Commodities Facility (RCF), a new system of financial incentives for farmers in Brazil who commit to deforestation- and conversion-free (DCF) soy cultivation.

The RCF will provide finance to 36 farms in the Cerrado region of Brazil, producing 75,000 tons (76,203.5 tonnes) of soy per year (for four years), resulting in the conservation of around 11,000 ha of native vegetation, 4,200 in excess of legal reserves. 

After an initial 12-month trial phase, it is expected that the Responsible Commodities Facility (RCF) will be scaled up to include hundreds of farmers across Brazil, helping to protect vast tracts of native Cerrado vegetation in Brazil conserving biodiversity, water quality and carbon stocks.

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