Startups use Artificial Intelligence to create sustainable food.

By March 1, 2018

Startups across the world are creating a new sustainable future with laboratory-made-meatballs and mayonnaise made with algorithms instead of eggs.

TheNotCompany, (Or NotCo) is a Chilean startup that aims to create healthy, sustainable food substitutes without sacrificing taste. Its first product, NoMayo, is an eggless substitute that is already on sale in the States, and according to twitter, tastes as good, if not better than the real thing.

The startup uses astonishing new technology to create their foods. Giuseppe, their affectionately named computer program, is an artificial intelligence algorithm that uses machine learning to  look for patterns in the molecular structure of plants and food. Sorry, what? He’s a clever bot, who uses a large database of food he’s analysed to choose what plants to use to reproduce the flavour and texture of a certain food.

This machine learning technology allows a computer to create algorithms, which means it can learn from itself and make data predictions, without having to be programmed. That means the more Giuseppe works, the more he learns, and the better he gets.

Matias Muchnik, one of the founders of the company, was working for J.P. Morgan when he upturned his life and dedicated himself to creating a sustainable food market. “By 2050 we won’t have the resources to feed the population…Something has to change” he told La Nacion.

Veganism and vegetarianism is becoming hugely popular across the world, due to the unsustainability of meat and dairy production. According to a study in the PNAS journal (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences), livestock production occupies 30% of the world’s ice-free surface, contributing to deforestation and desertification of the land, and uses one third of the world’s fresh water. Cattle production is the most harmful, as it requires more space, and one cow produces between 70 and 120kg of methane a year, a greenhouse gas that’s negative effect on the climate is 23 times worse than CO2.

Despite these disturbing statistics, many find it difficult to change their habits, and forgo their favourite foods. NotCo understands this.

“Let’s not change the foods that we eat, let’s change the way we make the foods that we love eating,” declares the company’s website

And it’s working. “The best part of it all is that 80% of our consumers are non-vegans, proving this concept can, indeed, go mainstream,” Muchnick told The Guardian.

Although currently only the NotMayo products are on sale in Argentina, NotMilk, NotYogurt and NotCheese will soon be following, and the company has plans to extend their products to Peru, Colombia and Brazil in the next few years.

NotCo is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to plant based meat and dairy substitutes. The ‘bleeding’ vegan burger, created by the British Company Moving Mountains arrived in the UK this month, allowing people to ‘Delve into a guilt-free trip of indulgence with one bite into the future’. Their current B12 burger was hailed by The Independent as ‘a mouthwatering meat-free alternative’, and is 100% plant.

But if these just don’t satisfy your carnivorous cravings, try turning to Memphis Meats, a company of eco-conscious meat lovers who create ‘clean meat’ by taking a small amount of animal cells and feeding them nutrients in a petri dish until they grow. They hit the headlines in 2016 with their first lab-grown meatball, and have just secured an investment with Tyson Foods. Unfortunately they have to spend around $2,400 to make 450g of beef, but they are reducing costs and plan to hit the market around 2021.

It seems the food production market is changing as fast as technology will allow, and in the next 25 years, meatless meat, eggless mayo and milkless milk might have changed the food landscape forever.


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