Food Tech Wins Big In Fast Company’s World Changing Ideas Awards

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Finnish biotech start-up Onego Bio, molecular farming cheese maker Nobell Foods, and C16 Biosciences Palmless oil snagged three of the coveted 45 Fast Company World Changing Ideas awards.

Fast Company’s 45 World Changing Ideas Award winners are “developing creative solutions to the most pressing issues of our time,” the company says.

World Changing Ideas

“It’s easy to get discouraged by the stream of dire news, but the hundreds of companies recognized here are a reminder that we shouldn’t lose hope,” Fast Company says of its winners.

“Because if the world’s most significant issues are all interrelated, as a panel of UN climate scientists recently reminded us, then the solutions can be, too. From sustainable leather that helps boost farmers’ income to repurposed shipping containers that bring digital tools to the developing world, these projects are building new innovations to solve the world’s most complicated issues in clever and unexpected ways.”

Selected by Fast Company editors and reporters, the 45 winners and hundreds of honorees represent “the kind of innovation and ingenuity necessary” that the magazine says will make the world more accessible, equitable, and sustainable “for everyone.”

The awards cover advancements in the food, tech, media, and business sectors, among others.

The winners

Three of Fast Company’s 45 World Changing Ideas Award winners are using novel tech to evolve key food categories including eggs, dairy, and palm oil. All of those industries are fueling the climate crisis, deforestation, and biodiversity loss.

egg white
Onego Bio uses fermentation to develop egg substitutes | Courtesy

Onego Bio snagged the Food Award for its sustainable solution to conventional eggs which pose environmental and ethical issues. Eighty-six percent of eggs are produced in carbon-intense industrial-farm settings, totaling some 200-plus-million metric tons of CO2 each year, according to Maija Itkonen, Onego’s CEO. The company is using precision fermentation to replicate the properties of egg whites in a more sustainable and ethical way. And given the recent avian flu outbreaks that sent conventional egg prices soaring, the need for solutions has never been more pressing.

Onego beat out a number of other food tech companies for the title including New Culture, Beyond Meat, Impossible Foods, SciFi Foods, Upside Foods, and Voyage Foods. Honorable mentions in the category included Minus’ beanless coffee, Meati’s mycelium meat, MyForest Foods, unMeat, and Prime Roots.

Nobell Foods took home the Agriculture Award — beating out Onego Bio for its use of molecular farming — growing dairy proteins inside soybeans. The company says most soy grown in the U.S. goes to animal feed, but growing dairy-identical proteins in engineered soy would use less land because it takes 6 kilos of plant protein to produce 1 kilo of dairy from a cow. But it’s a kilo-for-kilo exchange when the soy is producing dairy proteins on its own.

“If we want to have a real chance of making a meaningful climate impact, we need to give people options that are delicious and they can actually afford,” said Magi Richani, Nobell’s founder and CEO.

Lab grown palm oil
Lab grown palm oil | Courtesy C16 Biosciences

The Bill Gates-back C16 Biosciences, which produces Palmless, snagged the Nature Award for its use of precision fermentation to produce palm oil. The palm industry is a major contributor to deforestation and leading producer of greenhouse gases. Palm oil is used in half of packaged items from food to personal care products, and Fast Company says the $60 billion industry is expected to quadruple by 2050.

“It doesn’t make sense that we’re destroying rainforests to make vegetable oil,” said Shara Ticku, cofounder and CEO of C16 Biosciences.


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