Bill Gates became the world’s richest man by tackling seemingly impossible problems — so it should come as no surprise that he believes in a startup whose goal is to create the impossible.
In this case, the audacious goal isn’t getting a computer in every home, it’s creating an environmentally responsible meat substitute that’s indistinguishable from the real thing. Gates is participating in a $75 million fundraising round for Impossible Foods, a Redwood City, Calif.-based startup that makes meat from plants. It’s the third fundraising round Gates has participated in.
The company’s flagship product, the Impossible Burger is made from plant-based ingredients, including “soy leghemoglobin.” That key component of the Impossible Burger is said to mimic heme (a compound in hemoglobin), the iron-containing molecule that carries oxygen in blood and is ubiquitous in animal muscle.
So why is Bill Gates investing in mock meats? Impossible Foods says its products can feed the masses “with a much smaller environmental footprint than meat from animals.”
It’s one of many startups developing meat alternatives if/when livestock agriculture becomes too inefficient to feed the estimated 9.7 billion people who will be living on this planet by 2050.
Reducing global hunger is an explicit goal of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
“In an era of increasingly scarce resources and growing impact of climate change, we encourage farmers to embrace and adopt sustainable practices that help them grow more with less land, water, fertilizer, and other costly inputs while preserving natural resources for future generations,” the Gates Foundation website reads.
Impossible Foods says its flagship burger uses 75 percent less water, generates 87 percent fewer greenhouse gasses, and requires about 95 percent less land than ground beef from conventionally raised cows. The company won a patent for its leghemoglobin technology earlier this month.
The Impossible Burger is said to be identical to real beef in taste and texture. When cooked, it even “bleeds” and sizzles like ground beef. It is being served at a handful of restaurants in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.
The company is competing in a space crowded with other startups eager to find an alternative to traditional agriculture. Gates is also an investor in Beyond Meat, which is distributing its own plant-based burgers in hundreds of U.S. grocery stores.
Impossible Foods’ latest investment round was led by Singapore-based Temasek. Other investors include Khosla Ventures and Horizon Ventures.