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    Saving the f#$%ing rainforests with Shara Ticku of C16 Biosciences

    enJune 15, 2023

    Podcast Summary

    • Creating a Sustainable Palm Oil AlternativePalm oil harvesting damages the environment and air quality. C 16 Biosciences' plant-based alternative offers a solution to reduce harm to the planet and human health.

      Palm oil is a widely used ingredient that is plant-based and biodegradable. However, the way it is harvested today is highly destructive to the environment and disrupts habitats, making air toxic for whole countries. C 16 Biosciences aims to change this by producing a palm oil alternative. The co-founder of the company, Shara Tecu, was inspired to take action after experiencing the negative effects of burning season in Singapore. The burning of forests to clear land for palm oil plantations leads to dangerous air quality levels and a tangible cost to the health of people. It's important for the industry to find sustainable and environmentally friendly alternatives to avoid further damage to the planet.

    • Sustainable Palm Oil Farming: A Revolutionary Alternative to Traditional PracticesWith C16 Biosciences' innovative approach to producing sustainable Palm oil, we can protect the environment while still enjoying the benefits of this ingredient in our products.

      Palm oil is present in more than 50% of the products on supermarket shelves. Despite being safe and a great ingredient in maintaining critical functions of these products, its industrial agricultural practices can adversely impact the environment, leading to deforestation. Shara Ticku, a Harvard MBA graduate, along with her peers, discovered the adverse effects of Palm oil farming on the environment and started C16 Biosciences, a company that produces sustainable Palm oil without harming forests. The company's innovative approach to Palm oil farming can significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, land use, and water consumption, offering a sustainable alternative to traditional Palm oil farming.

    • The Problem with Palm Oil ProductionWhile Palm oil is useful, its high demand has caused environmental devastation and the displacement of indigenous communities. Sustainable production is essential for protecting nature and people.

      Palm oil is a highly effective and efficient product that is widely used in various industries due to its unique fatty acid profile. However, the massive increase in demand for this product over the years has led to the destruction of rainforests and peatland. This results in the displacement of indigenous communities, the loss of biodiversity, and the release of billions of tons of carbon dioxide emissions into the air. While the product itself is not bad, the way it is made and the impact it has on the environment is a massive problem. Therefore, sustainable and responsible production of Palm oil needs to be prioritized to avoid further destruction of nature and communities.

    • Biomanufacturing as a Viable Alternative to Unsustainable Palm OilC16 Biosciences has developed a sustainable and scalable approach to creating palm oil using biomanufacturing that offers an alternative to environmentally damaging and unsustainable methods used in traditional agriculture.

      C16 Biosciences identified a problem worth solving- the lack of a viable alternative to unsustainable palm oil. Although agriculture couldn't solve the problem, biomanufacturing approach of using microorganisms can create an oil that looks and functions like palm oil, but with a supply chain that's more scalable, more sustainable and more predictable. The difference is evident as in 2018, the changes in land use in Indonesia and Malaysia in order to create more palm oil plantations resulted in more CO2 emissions than the entire aviation sector. The claims of sustainable palm oil production have good intentions, yet it is challenging to confirm if the Palm oil in a product has been grown sustainably.

    • Creating Sustainable Palm Oil through Synthetic Production using Biotechnology and Nature's ElementsScientists have successfully created synthetic Palm oil through fermentation using microorganisms like yeast and algae bacteria. This sustainable approach provides an alternative to traditional Palm oil production, reducing harm to the environment and enabling ethical consumption.

      Producing Palm oil in a sustainable manner is a challenging task, and it is difficult to have confidence that it has been produced sustainably. However, a group of microorganisms have evolved to naturally produce oil just like oil Palm trees. The team of scientists started experimenting with microorganisms, like yeast and algae bacteria, using fermentation to create synthetic oil. While biotechnology was a crucial component, they also utilized nature's elements. Though it was a hypothesis when they started, the early trials were successful, and it looked like Palm oil. They did scrappy science and got basic proof of concepts to see that it was worth pursuing synthetic Palm oil production.

    • C 16 Biosciences: Revolutionizing Palm Oil ProductionC 16 Biosciences is using biotech to produce sustainable oil similar to palm oil in just six days, aiming to reduce CO2 emissions and serve large consumer companies. They plan on becoming a multi-billion dollar company.

      C 16 Biosciences uses biotech to produce an oil that is similar to Palm oil by modifying yeast instead of inserting DNA responsible for producing oil into the yeast. This allows them to extract oil much faster, within six days, as compared to Palm oil that takes years. The company aims to serve large consumer CPG companies and reduce or remove hundreds of millions of tons of CO2 emissions per year. The name C 16 comes from the 16 carbon fatty acid called Palm acid, which is one of the major components of Palm oil. The company was able to raise money after getting accepted into Y Combinator and intends to be a multi-billion dollar company.

    • Geltor's Strategy for Introduction of Eco-friendly Palm oilBy focusing on the personal care market first, Geltor was able to quickly introduce their eco-friendly Palm oil alternative, navigate fast R&D and sales cycles, and establish a reputation for their science-based innovations to eventually transition into serving larger CPG companies.

      Geltor, a science-based biotech company, pursued a strategy of bringing their radical new technology of eco-friendly Palm oil alternative to the personal care market first instead of the bigger market of food. The personal care market is a massive opportunity, is full of innovation, has fast R&D and sales cycles, and is a profitable industry. This decision helped Geltor to get a product into the market quickly, which is a challenge for science-based businesses. They wanted to get something quick and talked to customers in the space who were excited to take what they had and bring it to market. Eventually, their goal is to serve these larger CPG companies.

    • Bold Product Launch Leads to Instant Success and Industry AttentionTake a unique approach to product launches by making a bold statement and offering something different. Focus on working with dream customers, rather than just trying to plug into existing ecosystems, to achieve long-term success.

      The founders of the company created their own product to make an impact and dominate the headlines. The product launch was modeled in the vein of a protest poster to represent change and a bold statement. The brand exists to shake things up and move towards change and not plug into existing ecosystems. The product launch was a big success, though advertising was not done, the brand was sold out in three hours. The brand also had other big consumer packaged good companies lining up to use their oil to make their own products. Though the idea of launching a consumer brand isn't off the table, their focus is to work with their dream customers who came in through the limited product launch.

    • Creating Plant-Based Alternatives for Better Performance in the MarketTweaking oil profiles can create innovative and uniquely suited products. Despite high production costs, companies are willing to invest in sustainable solutions that address market failures like climate change and palm oil production.

      Creating plant-based alternatives that perform as good or better than existing products is key to winning in the market, whether it's burgers or functional ingredients like palm oil. By tweaking the oil profile, new products can be created that are uniquely suited for customers' needs and better performing than natural vegetable oils. While the cost of producing alternative oils is still high, companies are willing to pay higher prices for innovative solutions. Building a profitable business model without relying on massive amounts of funding and time is a challenge, but can be achieved by addressing market failures like climate change and palm oil production.

    • C16 Biosciences: Solving Deforestation with Sustainable Alternative OilsC16 Biosciences is providing a cost-effective and sustainable alternative to Palm oil, tapping into the growing market opportunity driven by increased demand for ethical and sustainable products.

      C16 Biosciences, a for-profit company based on innovation, aims to solve the problem of deforestation caused by the Palm oil industry by creating a cost-effective and sustainable alternative. The company plans to enter the food products market within two years. The growth potential of the alternative oils market is huge, as demonstrated by the EU's landmark legislation that requires companies trading in Palm oil to verify that it doesn't come from deforested land. Retailers like Walmart and Whole Foods are also taking action, making it a lucrative market opportunity. Moreover, the increasing supply chain risks and the fragile Palm oil supply chain make it a critical need to adopt alternative oils. C16 Biosciences is poised to benefit from the tailwinds and bring rapid change in this space.

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