Silicon Collar looks at machines and humans at work in over 50 settings across industries and countries. On this blog I will excerpt many of those settings over the next few weeks. On Deal Architect I will excerpt more of the policy parts of the book.
“Continuing southward in San Francisco, we can get a glimpse at automation in the R&D function. Hampton Creek, which has funding from some of the most prominent investors in Silicon Valley, has been identified by Bill Gates as one of the companies shaping the future of food. The start-up’s initial focus was the global poultry industry—which lays two trillion eggs every year—but Hampton Creek is now looking at over 40 new foods, all of which are free of animal products.”
“What if we were to grow grain, extract out a protein that has the same functionality of binding the oil and turn it into mayo. You save all those steps. People don't buy mayo because they want to eat eggs. They buy mayo because they want to eat mayo. In our thinking, egg's just a senseless ingredient. By doing it our way, we just cut out all those steps. We saved on land, water, and energy.
With that conception of how we think about food, what we do on the R&D end is investigate and search the plant kingdom for proteins that are functionality related to food. We source produce from around the world. We bring them in, we do raw materials processing on them using all natural solutions and forces, to size-reduce the material and get it into an aqueous solution. We fraction it out into different protein samples and then we examine each of those fractions for basic molecular and biochemical properties just to understand the fundamental nature of that protein. Then we test it for functionality related to food. A lot of the food chemistry that we assay for is for surface chemistry, water chemistry, structural interaction, etc.”
"We're screening through about 400,000 species of plants in the course of the next couple of years. That would be tough if you're just using the human hand and just the human brain. So, we're investing all these tens of millions of dollars in automation. Our scientists are not staying up all night. The machines are up and running assays. As this data is being generated, hypotheses are being populated into the cloud, and then we can make smart decisions when we actually wake up and analyze the data.
We have a number of plant biologists, molecular biologists and biochemists. We have material scientists, food scientists, and we have automation engineers. We have process engineers, including certification people, and we have our data scientists and computational biologists. No offense to Kraft, General Mills, or Nestle, but I am not sure they could say the same thing about the staff mix in their R&D.”
Photo Credit: Hampton Creek