The podcast I have been waiting years to record! The All In Podcast’s Sultan of Science: David Friedberg, CEO of The Production Board, is on The Plantbased Business Hour with me to discuss how AI can impact the Plant-based Innovation sector (plant-based foods and alternative proteins) as well as what the sector can do to scale up production and reduce costs.
The Besties of All In don’t talk about Plant-based Innovation as part of an economic driver as much as they could, so we do it here. So much to discuss! We dish on politics, the economy, innovation and culture…all as it relates to global food systems transformation.
Specifically we discuss,
- How the sector can scale to price parity or better and the innovations that will get us there,
- The power of bioengineering and the opportunities that can come from land, water and forest availability provided by more efficient ways of making protein,
- Plant-based Innovation as an issue of national security, and
- What AI will do to the food revolution. It’s on fire!
Below is a highlight clip from our long-form conversation.
Elysabeth: So, let me take that idea of engineering biology and bring it back to economics and maybe even cultural, societal issues.
As we open the newspaper every day or we go on the website every day and we talk about the debt ceiling, what kind of impact do you see alternative proteins and plant-based innovation playing in ramping up the economy? If we are going to be doing more engineering of biology and creating more technology that is mass adopted like we saw potentially on that S-curve like the iPhone was adopted or like the computer was adopted after the typewriter or the car was adopted after the horse, you know, if we see this kind of mass adoption-you’re talking about not just Brooklyn and LA that got the memo, but you’re talking about Africa, China, India, old, new, young, religious, not religious-every sector of society would be adopting new technologies and bringing them into their life. That’s an enormous amount of money, job wealth, job creation, etc. What do you think about alternative proteins playing a big role in the economic health of the United States, for example?
David Friedberg: Well, I mean remember all economic growth, if it’s not inflationary growth driven by money printing, right, it has to come from productivity gains where you can spend a dollar and get a dollar fifty or spend a dollar and get two dollars. If you can spend a dollar and get two dollars, that wins in the market and you actually see real economic growth because then the people that make two bucks will spend more on other stuff and then those people will spend more and that’s how the economy grows.
I think, ultimately, the real question is- everyone needs to eat protein, right? We need 15 percent of our calories to come from protein and everyone would prefer animal proteins over, I mean, the majority of humans would prefer animal proteins over plant proteins or a greater ratio thereof. So, the real productivity driver question is can you make proteins at a lower price point per gram or per kilogram? If you can and people want it, because it tastes the same and looks the same and feels the same and all of that stuff, then more people will buy that cheaper product, that market will take off, and the marginal gain you get-the excess profits you generate from that new system-will get reinvested and the economy will grow.
So, just like any other technology market, product gains arising from a transition in the food system can be really beneficial.
There’s also a great land unlock potential here, right? Depending on how you look at the statistics, right, call it ten billion grazed acres on earth and those ten to twelve billion, whatever the number is, pasture land, ranch land, grazing land. If you had a cheaper way of generating animal proteins rather than using these systems- and some people would argue there’s a regenerative effect using these systems associated with that. So, maybe you want to keep livestock on those parcels of land, but if you no longer need the intensive production of calories as feedstock for animals or large amounts of land, then you can rethink what you’re using that land and those resources for and that unlocks new markets and new opportunities.
Elysabeth: Starting with sequestering carbon.
David Friedberg: You could, I mean there’s a lot of options, right? I think generally we don’t really know. The market decides what they’re going to pay for.
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