How Mushrooms Battle Dirty Laundry

The New York Times: Scientists from a “Danish biotechnology company … Novozymes, regularly trudge through the mud, hunting for oyster mushrooms that protrude from a fallen beech or bracken fungi that feast on tough plant fibers. They are studying the enzymes in mushrooms that speed up chemical reactions or natural processes like decay … Their work is helping the company develop enzymes for laundry and dishwasher detergents that would require less water, or that would work just as effectively at lower temperatures.”

“Enlisting enzymes to battle dirt is not a new strategy. Over thousands of years, mushrooms and their fungi cousins have evolved into masters at nourishing themselves on dying trees, fallen branches and other materials. They break down these difficult materials by secreting enzymes into their hosts. Even before anyone knew what enzymes were, they were used in brewing and cheese making, among other activities.”

“Novozymes and its rivals have developed a catalog of enzymes over the years, supplying them to consumer goods giants like Unilever and Procter & Gamble … In 2009, Novozymes scientists teamed up with Procter & Gamble to develop an enzyme that could be used in liquid detergents for cold-water washes.” Phil Souter of P&G comments: “We knew this was something that consumers would want. I think this is a very tangible and practical way people can make a difference in their everyday lives.”

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Fake Meat: Growing Bloody Fast

Business Insider: “Fake meat is a fast-rising food category that could change the way we eat. It replaces animal products with alternatives made from plants that look and taste like meat, with the goal of reducing the global dependence on animal agriculture.”

“The substitute meat market is expected to grow 8.4% annually over the next three years, reaching $5.2 billion globally by 2020, according to Allied Market Research … Companies that produce fake meat and seafood, ranging from ‘bloody’ burgers to sushi made from tomatoes, have targeted college campuses as testing grounds for their creations … In October, startup Impossible Foods announced it will expand distribution of its vegan burger, which sizzles on the grill and bleeds juices like real beef, to universities and company cafes.”

“Impossible Foods opened its first large-scale production facility in September, which will allow it to produce at least four million meatless burgers a month by year’s end … New Wave Foods, which manufactures an algae-based shrimp alternative, and Ocean Hugger Foods, which is working on plant-based seafood — including a raw tuna substitute made from tomatoes — have also set their sights on food-service companies as a path for distribution.”

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Vision: Michelin Prints The ‘Perfect’ Tire

The Verge: “They’re completely airless, last virtually forever, and could be the perfect tire for our autonomous future. Michelin, the 128-year-old tire manufacturer based in Clermont-Ferrand, France, recently unveiled a 3D-printed tire concept that it says could be the ideal ride for self-driving cars. It just needs to figure out how to actually manufacture them first.”

“Dubbed ‘Vision,’ these spidery, psychedelic-looking sponges are printed from bio-sourced and biodegradable materials, including natural rubber, bamboo, paper, tin cans, wood, electronic and plastic waste, hay, tire chips, used metals, cloth, cardboard, molasses, and orange zest.”

“These tires would be embedded with RFID sensors to collect data and predict performance and function of the vehicle. And they will be adaptive to different conditions. Heading to the mountains for some skiing? Drive through a Michelin printing station and get your tires retrofitted for snowy terrain … this isn’t Michelin’s first rimless, airless tire to be released. The Twheel, an airless tire concept that emerged over a decade ago, is currently in use in small-frame, low-speed vehicles and appliances like golf carts and lawn mowers.”

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That’s Nuts: Milkadamia’s ‘Free Range’ Trees

Quartz: “In the wild world of product claims, the fledgling macadamia-nut-milk industry is charging into the US market elbows out, taking pot-shots at the dairy and almond industries along the way. This explains the unabashed claim on Milkadamia’s cartons, which is that the company only sources nuts from so-called ‘free-range trees.’The Chicago-based company’s nuts are grown from trees in Australia, then shipped to the US for processing.”

“To be sure, ‘free-range tree’ does not fall within the scientific lexicon used by horticulturalists. It’s nothing more than a marketing ploy to hook consumers enamored by product claims. Milkadamia cartons go on to explain that its milk comes from ‘trees supporting life, not trees on life support,’ meaning they aren’t attached to irrigation systems.”

“It’s meant to be a ‘gentle’ dig at California almond farmers, Milkadamia CEO Jim Richards tells Quartz. He characterizes these farmers—much to their chagrin—as being dependent on irrigating water from aquifers … In less than two years Milkadamia has expanded its US footprint to more than 5,000 retail locations and will be sold in Walmart in January, Richards says.”

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Amy’s Drive-Thru: Meat-Free Fast Food

Fast Company: “Amy’s Drive Thru is America’s first vegetarian, organic, gluten-free-optional fast-food restaurant, and much to the surprise of the owners, it’s doing more than holding its own against its greasy competitors … Business has been so booming at Amy’s Drive Thru in its two years of operation that it’s beginning a chain.”

“For 29 years, the Petaluma, California-based Amy’s Kitchen has gained a cult following as a purveyor of family-style, vegetarian frozen meals, from macaroni and cheese to burritos, all handmade fresh in three operating facilities across California, Oregon, and Idaho, and shipped nationwide … The drive-through is powered by solar panels, and the tableware is recyclable. Using mostly organic and local produce for ingredients is more expensive, but it’s what customers expect from the company.”

“Whereas a standard fast-food restaurant has around 15 employees per outpost, Amy’s Drive Thru employs over 90 because it takes many more people to prepare the food … A true cross-country empire of Amy’s locations is still far off … The company wants to expand slowly, to ensure that they can partner with local farmers and producers around each location … and to understand where the drive-throughs could have the greatest effect in breaking up health-food deserts.”

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Digital Scale Cuts Ikea Food Waste

Fast Company: “By the end of August 2020, Ikea wants to cut its food waste at its stores–both in its restaurants and in its smaller bistros serving cinnamon buns, hot dogs, and soft serve–in half. At the heart of this plan is a digital scale. Whenever employees in Emeryville (CA) toss food waste from the kitchen into a bin, it now records the weight of the food. On a touchscreen mounted on the wall above the bin, employees quickly record what type of food was lost, and see feedback about the cost of that food and the carbon footprint. Over time, the patterns in the data will help the company make changes.”

“Ikea began piloting its new food waste system in 2015, and began rolling it out to stores in December 2016. By May 2017, it had launched in 20% of its stores, reducing nearly 80,000 pounds of food waste and saving the company more than $1 million. It’s now in the process of rolling it out to all of its 400 stores, which serve 650 million customers a year.”

Andrew Shakman, CEO of LeanPath, makers of the digital scale, comments: “The moment you start measuring with technology you begin to change awareness levels and you cause people to start to think differently. Whereas in the past they could just throw something in the garbage, now they have to stop and for a moment; they have to record something about it. In that moment, you’re not just collecting data, you’re communicating your values.”

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Impossible Burgers: Food is not an App

The New York Times: “One of the chief selling points of the Impossible Burger, a much ballyhooed plant-based burger patty, is its resemblance to meat, right down to the taste and beeflike ‘blood’ …. Now, its secret sauce — soy leghemoglobin, a substance found in nature in the roots of soybean plants that the company makes in its laboratory — has raised regulatory questions. Impossible Foods wants the Food and Drug Administration to confirm that the ingredient is safe to eat. But the agency has expressed concern that it has never been consumed by humans and may be an allergen.”

“Impossible Foods can still sell its burger despite the F.D.A. findings, which did not conclude that soy leghemoglobin was unsafe. The company plans to resubmit its petition to the agency.” Rachel Konrad, a spokeswoman for Impossible Foods, states: “The Impossible Burger is safe. A key ingredient of the Impossible Burger — heme — is an ancient molecule found in every living organism.”

“Impossible Foods is finding out what happens when a fast-moving venture capital business runs headlong into the staid world of government regulation. Investors like Bill Gates and Khosla Ventures have poured money into a variety of so-called alt meat companies. Silicon Valley has noble goals, applying technological solutions to address major issues like climate change, farm animal welfare and food security. But food is not an app. It is far more heavily regulated by governments and much more heavily freighted with cultural and emotional baggage.”

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Seaweed Cups: Food as Packaging

The New York Times: “A growing number of entrepreneurs and researchers are working to turn foods like mushrooms, kelp, milk and tomato peels into edible — if not always palatable — replacements for plastics, coatings and other packaging materials.” For example: “The United States Department of Agriculture … has developed a material from milk protein that can be used to line pizza boxes, encase cheese or create, say, soluble soup packets that can simply be dropped in hot water. The product could even serve as a substitute for the sugar used to coat cereal flakes to prevent them from going soggy too fast.”

“Over the past several years, governments have quietly bankrolled efforts to develop packaging from food. The European Union, which underwrote a project to develop coatings from whey and potato proteins from 2011 to 2015, estimates that the global market for so-called bioplastics is growing by as much as 30 percent each year.”
However: “Nestlé says it wouldn’t want its demand for packaging to reduce the food supply, given widespread hunger … Few, however, are begging to eat the peels left after tomatoes are processed. A group of researchers in Italy has used them to develop a lining for cans.”

“A British start-up called Skipping Rocks Lab is taking matters into its own hands. The company has developed a packaging it calls Ohoo from edible seaweed, and is building a machine to produce containers from Ohoo to hold water, juices, cosmetics and other liquids on the spot. A juice bar, for instance, could create a container with each order.”

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Keurig Designs Eco-Friendly K-Cup

The Washington Post: “Keurig Green Mountain said it plans by 2020 to change the plastic composition in the billions of K-cup single-serving coffee containers it sells annually, making them more lucrative to recyclers while removing one of the nagging complaints that mountains of the little pods are piling up in landfills … The recycling breakthrough comes as the Keurig’s single-serve coffee machines, which helped revolutionize coffee consumption, are becoming less of a habit after years of growth.”

“The recycling breakthrough comes as the Keurig’s single-serve coffee machines, which helped revolutionize coffee consumption, are becoming less of a habit after years of growth … The problem with K-cups has been twofold. First, they have been too small for the sorting machines to ‘see’ and move to the recycling line instead of the garbage heap. Second, the material composition of the K-cup plastic did not lend itself to being broken down and reused as another material.”

“Many of the 600 or so recycling plants across the United States and Canada have reinvested in technology that can spot the K-cup pods and divert them toward reuse.”
In addition: “Keurig is in the process of changing the makeup of its K-cups from polystyrene to polypropylene.”

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Redbro Chickens: Slow Growth, Better Taste

The New York Times: “Perdue Farms, one of the country’s largest chicken producers, has been raising what are known as slow-growth chickens side by side with the breeds that have made the company so successful. The new birds, a variety known as Redbro, take 25 percent longer, on average, to mature than their conventional cousins, and so are more expensive to raise.”

“Perdue is trying to find just the right slow-growth breed, and it has a strong incentive: A fast-growing cohort of companies that buy vast quantities of poultry, including Whole Foods Market and Panera Bread, are demanding meat from slow-growth chickens, contending that giving birds more time to grow before slaughter will give them a healthier, happier life — and produce better-tasting meat.”

“Consumers would … have to accept some trade-offs: While the new chickens have a fuller flavor, their meat tends to be distributed differently over the body, with more generous thighs and smaller breasts than the chicken most Americans are used to … In marketing slow-growth chickens, Perdue and others will have to make consumers understand why they are paying a higher price … the suggested retail price of a Sonoma Red (from Perdue’s Petaluma Poultry) that weighs four pounds is $16.”

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