The new oil is healthier and more eco-friendly, helping to reduce deforestation
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Spotted: There has been much focus on the environmental benefits of reducing red meat consumption. But vegetable oils such as canola and palm oil also have a significant environmental impact. And unlike meat—which is boycotted by 40 per cent of the Indian population—it can be very hard to avoid vegetable oils. For example, the World Wildlife Fund reports that palm oil is in nearly 50 per cent of processed food products found in supermarkets.
Vegetable oils are common because they are convenient and useful. But the processes that produce them are wasteful, contributing significantly to deforestation in tropical regions. And vegetable oils are often unhealthy – contributing as much as one fifth of the calories we consume.
Now, US startup Zero Acre Farms is developing a promising alternative. The company is harnessing a well-known natural process that is more readily associated with alcohol production: fermentation. This process involves feeding microbes that, in turn, produce a useful by-product. Fermentation has many applications across industries, and microbes are carefully chosen for what they produce. In the case of brewing, the chosen microbe—yeast—produces ethanol. For the Zero Acre Farms process microbes are chosen that produce oil and fat.
The end-product is an oil that can be used in place of vegetable oils. And what is more impressive is that it can be easily subbed into your favourite meal without needing to change the recipe. “It’s a 1:1 replacement, not like using almond flour instead of wheat flour — you just use it instead of whatever product you’re replacing,” explains CEO and co-founder Jeff Nobbs.
Written By: Matthew Hempstead