BioTech Foods, the voice of the sustainability of the future at South Summit 2021

Under the slogan ‘Shape the future’, Madrid will host the South Summit 2021 from 5 to 7 October, an important international event for corporations, investors and leaders of the entrepreneurial ecosystem at which BioTech Foods will be present. The agrotech sector has burst into the Top 10 with the most entrepreneurial projects, according to the ‘Entrepreneurship Map 2021’.

Organised by IE University in collaboration with Madrid City Council, South Summit 2021 will take place in a combined format (physical and virtual) at La Nave.

The slogan ‘Shape the future’ aims to be a call to action addressed to the global innovation ecosystem to be part of the transformation through the three hallmarks of South Summit: connection, innovation and business. The feature of this year’s event is that a fourth pillar, essential for shaping the future, has been added: sustainability. It is an invitation to participants to join the green transformation and commit to reducing their net carbon emissions.

Once again,  the 100 best startups from the global and national ecosystem, chosen from among the more than 3,800 projects in this year’s Startup Competition will be in South Summit. Of these, 64% are of international origin, coming from 24 countries, especially from the USA, UK, Nigeria, Germany, India, Mexico, Colombia, Israel, France and Argentina.

Madrid will therefore become the epicentre of entrepreneurs and experts in innovation who stand out for their active contribution to the green transition, such as Christopher Gavigan, co-founder with the actress Jessica Alba of The Honest Company; Gunter Pauli, creator of The Blue Economy concept; Sebastian Siemiatkowski, co-founder and CEO of Klarna, the most valued European fintech; Bisila Bokoko, one of the 10 most influential Spanish women in the business world in America; Marcelo Claure, CEO of Softbank, the Japanese investment giant; or Francis X. Suarez, Mayor of Miami, who will participate virtually.

Our CEO and co-founder Iñigo Charola will present at South Summit 2021 the trajectory and experience of BioTech Foods, since its founding in 2017 as one of the global forerunners in the alternative protein ecosystem. His intervention will be on 6 October at 17.00, as part of the panel: ‘The Foodtech boom: Startups transforming the food industry’, moderated by Beatriz Jacoste (KM Zero HUB Director) and in which Giuseppe Scionti (Novameat) and Pablo Rodrigo Juan (Trazable) will also participate.

NextGen competition

South Summit has also launched the NextGen competition, aimed at promising young entrepreneurs between 14 and 17 years old, who will be able to participate in the project competition, make their presentation to investors and high-level corporations and be inspired by the talks given by experts and successful entrepreneurs to prepare them for their future as entrepreneurs.

The agrotech sector, in the top 10 of entrepreneurship

As a prelude to the event, the South Summit has just presented an annual report on Spanish entrepreneurship, which, among other aspects, highlights the emergence of the Agrotech sector in the ranking of the top 10 sectors with the most entrepreneurial projects.

Although the fintech sector continues to be the leading industry in the entrepreneurial universe, the ‘Map of Entrepreneurship 2021’ reflects that both agrotech and e-commerce have experienced a significant boost due, in large part, to the pandemic. On the other hand, the health and education sectors continue to account for many entrepreneurial projects.

According to the authors, innovation in traditional sectors continues to be one of the keys to economic transformation. In addition, another of the data highlighted is that the number of entrepreneurs with a doctorate has grown, which points to greater specialisation and the consequent increase in highly technical profiles setting up startups in Spain.

Food 4 Future, alternative proteins at the heart of food innovation

Face-to-face events are back! Food 4 Future – Expo FoodTech 2021, the meeting to transform the food and beverage industry through technological innovation, from June 15 to 17 in Bilbao, has placed the development and production of alternative proteins at the centre of the debate.

After a pandemic that has limited us to the virtual world for many months, the international fair Food 4 Future – Expo FoodTech 2021 had met more than 5,000 people. In addition, it has energetically resumed the search for answers to the great challenges of the food sector: how to optimize processes through technology, how to develop more sustainable and efficient business models, and what are the trends in the production of new foods and ingredients.

The food industry represents 11% of the world’s GDP, with expected growth in demand of 70% by 2025, and technology is an indispensable ally to face all the challenges mentioned above.

Alternative proteins leader experts and companies have had the opportunity to reactivate personal contact in this event in which our CEO Iñigo Charola has also participated. BioTech Foods has been one of the 20 companies selected by the organization, among more than 2,000 food-tech startups, to present their progress to the international community.

The development and production of alternative proteins, including cultured meat, which BioTech Foods has been working on since 2017, is aimed at minimizing the energy expenditure that the meat industry generates, through the high consumption of resources such as water, land or feed used in the production of animal protein.

Iñigo Charola explained the keys and opportunities that the development of cultured meat production from a sample of animal tissue represents for the world food sector. Cell culture in a controlled environment implemented by BioTech Foods makes it possible, in addition to avoiding animal slaughter and raising food safety standards, to achieve an enormous proportion of animal protein of high biological value compared to traditional methods. Thus, cells extracted from a single pig in one year can produce the same kilos of meat as those obtained by slaughtering 400 animals.

The consumer, one of the challenges of alternative proteins

Alongside the significant advances in terms of animal welfare and health, there are also benefits for the environment. In this regard, it is estimated that cultured meat and other alternative proteins will account for between 11 and 22% of total protein in 2035. This will allow us “to save the water that a city like London would consume in 40 years”, reminds the CEO of BioTech Foods.

Faced with this door that food innovation opens for all those projects focused on obtaining new nutrients more sustainably, challenges also arise, such as knowing whether current consumers are prepared for this type of alternative proteins consumption.

Thus, one of the aspects that the debate has brought to light is the necessary exercise of the population to overcome cultural and mental barriers. This should not be an obstacle if we take into account, as Carlos Bald, senior researcher at AZTI – marine and food science and technology centre – reminded us, that “many countries consume insects daily, microalgae have been consumed for thousands of years in different cultures, and fermentation with yeast, fungi and bacteria has been used by human beings since the beginning of time to produce bread, beer, wine, cheese and yoghurt”.

Given that, according to UN data, by 2050 the planet will have 9.5 billion inhabitants, the demand for protein, a basic macronutrient in our diet, will continue to increase exponentially. In this scenario, the role of alternatives based on plants and cell cultures to replace animal products becomes indispensable.

One of the main conclusions of this first edition of Food 4 Future has been that higher consumption of this type of food would mean a health improvement, as well as helping to face the current environmental and animal welfare challenges. In short, Food 4 Future stresses that the food sector must focus on offering an extended value proposition to consumers that guarantee traceability, food safety, the choice of healthy and clean labels and environmental management.

The global phenomenon of alternative proteins

Sustainable food solutions are among the most discussed topics in the contemporary global food industry, focus on new protein sources. Disruptive protein technology and the market for sustainable food solutions are growing at a rapid pace.

“To be part of tomorrow’s food solution” is the aim of the international forum New Food Conference Berlin on 28-29 April, in which Iñigo Charola, CEO of our parent company BioTech Foods, is participating. The New Food Conference is an industry-oriented event that aims to accelerate and promote these innovative food technologies by bringing together the best players in the sector.

The virtual event is organized by ProVeg, an international food awareness organization based on four continents and active in more than 20 countries. ProVeg works with businesses, governments, public institutions, scientific professionals, and the general public to promote the transition to an animal-free society and economy that is sustainable for humans, animals, and the planet. Among its challenges: To reduce global animal consumption by 50% by 2040.

Considered Europe’s largest conference on new protein solutions, the New Food Conference Berlin is a great opportunity to establish synergies with key players in the food industry. It is a pioneering conference in Europe with the participation of prominent leaders in the field of plant- and cell-based proteins, which makes it the perfect platform for publicizing projects aimed at providing innovative food solutions, such as cultured meat, which Ethicameat has been working on since 2017.

As ProVeg recalls, the 2019 edition of the New Food Conference was the first international event in Europe to bring together leading innovators in the fields of plant products and cultured animal products. A knowledge-sharing platform where, once again this year, a wide range of topics will be discussed (see the full program here). From the priorities and forecasts for investment in the future of food to the round table: ‘Cellular agriculture: is commercialization just around the corner’, in which our CEO, Iñigo Charola, will take part.

The forum promoted by ProVeg is, therefore, a unique opportunity not only to accelerate innovative food technologies but also to discuss relevant aspects such as consumer acceptance, dissemination in the media, and public awareness of the opportunities offered by alternative proteins in the face of global problems such as climate change or world food supply. Consumer demand and tastes are changing faster than ever before as awareness of nutrition and environmental impacts grow.

How much does the name of food influence its consumption?

Can you imagine going back two or three generations and inviting our grandparents or great-great-grandparents to eat a hamburger? What would their reaction be? They might not even know what kind of food we are talking about and, if they did, they would probably not be very receptive as they would associate it with fast food far removed from their traditions. Perhaps if we replaced the term hamburger with Russian steak or minced beef, their reaction would be very different, won’t they?

It is just one example of the extent to which the name we give to food can influence our decision to eat it or not. The hamburger has had a very particular history in Spain, maybe because of its gastronomy culture. In the beginning, it was considered a fast food product. Today it has found its way onto the menus of many restaurants willing to compete for the best hamburger in the place, made with very high-quality meat and even turned into a signature dish in which chefs of all styles display their creativity.

How many people have ‘mistakenly’ tasted a ‘steak tartar’ without knowing 100% that they were dealing with a raw meat or fish dish? Would they have done so if it had called only ‘raw steak’?

We constantly make linguistic associations for socio-cultural reasons that influence our perception of things and, above all, create certain prejudices in the face of unfamiliar and novel products that, simply because they are new, we consider harmful to our health. We are reluctant to change, and sometimes this is a barrier in the food sector as in others. However, the sustainability of our food system today faces challenges that require immediate responses.

The production needed to feed the world’s growing population leads to overexploitation of natural resources that take an ever-increasing toll on our environment. Relying on the benefits of technology applied to the food sector is more necessary than ever to respond to international commitments such as the European Green Deal. As the demand for protein increases, there is an urgent need to look for nutrients and alternatives to diversify food options for the global population. The cultivation of animal cells and the extraction of plant protein for food production are some of these innovative solutions that, thanks to biotechnology, allow us to minimize the risks of animal-borne diseases and reduce the pollution generated by our current food system. The cultured meat we work on at Ethicameat offers an animal-friendly system and contributes to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and the use of water and soil, all of which are essential resources for our survival. The aim of this, and other alternative sources of protein, is to make products available to the consumer that allows us to have a more balanced, and consequently more sustainable, food production system.

In the US, it has been agreed to call meat produced from seafood cells cell-cultured. It has been recently announced by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) after a long discussion with the major players in the industry. As early as the end of 2020, the FDA sent a request to companies producing cell-cultured meat or seafood to propose a possible designation. A study found that both the terms “cell-grown” and “cell-based” would adequately inform consumers and would neutrally present the product.

The European Parliament rejected an amendment calling for limiting designations such as ‘hamburger’, ‘sausage’, ‘steak’ and ‘escalope’ to traditional meat products only in October last year. The intention was to prohibit their use to refer, for example, to plant-based foods in these forms, such as the veggie burgers already on the market. The fact that plant-based products are coming onto the market in popular and internationally widespread formats such as sausages or hamburgers is, in our view, intended precisely to take advantage of the knowledge that we as consumers have of this type of food. Extending the typology of a product format established in our cultures, such as the hamburger or sausage, should not concern us as much as the environmental impact generated by its production.

There is a need for a clear, science-based regulatory system that supports new food production techniques, allows greater consumer choice, and improves food safety. Food sustainability must be underpinned by innovation, so any unjustified vetoes or language barriers to new products that aim for sustainability and progress in our food should be avoided.

Eco diets versus proteins

Food trends focused on sustainability, avoiding meat consumption, and the mistreatment of animals grow exponentially. Vegans, vegetarians, raw vegans, flexitarians, pescetarians, or ovo-lacto-vegetarians. But is there a perfect balance between protein and eco-conscious diets? Read on to find the answer!

Natural, organic, and vegan lifestyles are gaining momentum in our societies today, mainly due to the need for more sustainable development. Health, ecological awareness, and animal protection are the values that drive people who chose one of these diets, which exclude all foods that do not pass their ethical test.

The importance of a balanced diet is deeply rooted in our culture. Mediterranean diet is UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity since 2010. It’s the result of the joint candidacy of Spain, Greece, Italy, and Morocco. However, ‘eco’ diets go beyond the strict health benefits of the Mediterranean diet, as they seek to encompass and even prioritize the planet’s benefits. One of their main goals is raising awareness that through our food choices we can reduce our environmental impact and combat climate change.

The veggie movement, a trend in which vegetables are at the forefront, has increasingly specific diets. The range of options goes from those limited to raw foods, such as raw veganism, to others that are more flexible and allow the occasional consumption of meat, fish, or poultry. Some of the most popular are as follows:

Vegan: no animal products.

Vegetarian: mostly vegetable products and occasionally some animal products such as eggs, milk, or honey.

Flexitarian: preference for plant-based products and occasionally meat, seafood, or fish.

Raw vegan: raw foods of plant origin, excluding any products from animals or cooked at more than 46 degrees Celsius.

Pescetarian: vegetables, fruits and legumes, and occasionally fish and seafood.

Ovo-lacto-vegetarian: vegetables, fruit, and pulses, but also some animal products such as dairy products and eggs.

Behind these diets are strong convictions to preserve animal welfare and reduce the impact of our diets on the environment. And although the general opinion of experts is that we should move towards a model where plant-based proteins predominate, nutritionists themselves warn us that following one of these diets, without some control by a specialist, can lead to a deficit of vitamins and other compounds essential for the proper functioning of our body.

Proteins in cultured meat

Precisely to alleviate this protein deficit, the main handicap of these dietary trends that in some cases can lead to anemia or other similar pathologies depending on the metabolism of each person, Ethicameat has been working on cultured meat since 2017. A disruptive and innovative project that, on the one hand, aims to cover the demand for proteins of high biological value and amino acids that we have and, on the other, to do so without the need to slaughter animals and reducing pollution and the waste of natural resources (soil and water) associated with industrial livestock farming.

Sustainable cultured meat, without animal slaughter, with high protein content and without antibiotics, that not only meets our nutritional needs but also fits in with diets that respect our ethical and ecological preferences. It is a unique food product that will undoubtedly revolutionize the way we eat meat and the traditional nutritional pyramid. The perfect balance between protein and eco-conscious diets is possible, and cellular agriculture, supported by biotechnology, has a lot to say about the future of food.

‘Culturedmeat’ project, our mission for food sustainability

We have added an important achievement to the exciting challenge in which we are immersed: to make cultured meat a reality in our diet soon. The CULTUREDMEAT project, led on the technological side by our company BioTech Foods, has received the highest rating in the ‘Missions’ call of the Centre for the Development of Industrial Technology (CDTI). We tell you all the details of our mission!

The CULTUREDMEAT project aims to research meat produced from cellular agriculture that, together with the development of healthy fats and functional ingredients, allows the production of meat products for the prevention of colon cancer and increase in the concentration of cholesterol and lipids in the blood.

This project has submitted to the ‘Missions’ call of the Centre for the Development of Industrial Technology (CDTI), a program aimed at supporting strategic sectorial business innovation initiatives within the framework of the State Programme for Business Leadership in R&D&I of the State Plan for Scientific and Technical Research and Innovation 2017-2020. Out of a total of 128 proposals submitted, only 24 were approved, with CULTUREDMEAT being the best rated in Spain in all areas of the call.

In the context of a world threatened by climate change, where population growth poses a challenge when it comes to combining food and sustainability, cultured meat is undoubtedly one of the greatest innovations of our century, integrating food safety, animal welfare, and sustainability.

Who forms ‘Culturedmeat’?

CULTUREDMEAT has come into being through the cooperation of national biotechnology companies specialized in nutrition and production technologies. BioTech Foods is leading the technological part of this project.  Seven other entities and ten research organizations are involved in the consortium.

Benefits of cultured meat and challenges

The consumption of red meat is associated with diseases like colon cancer and dyslipidemia. In Spain, specifically, colon cancer is the most frequent cancer in the population. Research into functional ingredients that can help prevent these diet-related diseases with a high social impact is fundamental.

The biggest challenge for the cultured meat sector now is the industrial scale-up to produce sufficient volumes. Cultivated meat production has aroused great interest in the industry and, numerous investment funds are betting on this meat of the future that reduces environmental impact and protects animal welfare. Research and development projects for cultured meat are now also the focus of attention from public institutions.

A few months ago, the European Union, through its Horizon 2020 program, awarded the first public investment in cultured meat (more than 2.7 million euros) to the ‘Meat4All’ project, an international consortium led by BioTech Foods. This joint work aims to supply the world’s growing demand for animal protein while addressing the main drawbacks of today’s industrial livestock farming: health, environmental sustainability, and animal welfare issues.

Cultured meat’ is already a benchmark in the global alternative protein sector and, Spain is among the few countries with advanced business projects that are scaling up production to start commercialization. Biotech Foods, which has been working since 2017 on the development of its ‘Ethicameat’ cultured meat, was the first Spanish company to enter this market.

Cell culture is already in the kitchen

More and more kitchen professionals from different parts of the world are experimenting with cell culture products already on the market such as ‘meat’ from vegetables or fish that does not involve sacrifice. A door to new textures and flavors that already attracts the interest of even Michelin-starred references in Spanish gastronomy. We invite you to learn “what’s cooking” in the most innovative kitchens!

Alternative protein foods are gaining ground in the proposals of famous chefs who are daring enough to offer 100% plant-based menus to surprise their guests. Innovation and haute cuisine have always got along well, so this should be no exception…

Food trends are highly considered in the international gastronomy field, since, in some way, the evolution of cuisine must not only walk in parallel to the demand and needs of consumers but ahead in many occasions. Gluten-free dishes, vegan proposals, or for raw-vegetarians, sugar-free desserts… In this sense, the concern for moderating the consumption of products of animal origin is growing and more and more consumers are questioning whether it is necessary to eat so much meat and fish to have a balanced diet. 

‘Planted-based’

Matthew Kenney is one of the pioneers of plant-based cooking and a true champion of the ‘raw food’ or food trend that bets on the least cooked food possible. Kenney is often involved in documentaries that raise new questions about the global food supply, its impact on the environment, and the necessary change in the animal industry. His conceptual menu Folia based on plants has been one of the novel bets of the Four Seasons Dubai Hotel, in the United Arab Emirates, by the hand of the local investor Khaled bin Alwaleed, who is also very involved in alternative proteins and the startups of cellular agriculture in Silicon Valley.

Another exponent of the ‘planted based’ trend is the veteran chef Ron De Santis. A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, De Santis has cooked for the White House diplomatic corps and served as director of Culinary Excellence at Yale University. He is currently the culinary director of a Missouri-based company specializing in plant-based beef, pork, chicken, crab, and Italian sausage. His work consists of transforming conventional dishes into vegetable ‘meat’ dishes, which the chef qualifies as “great quality” due to their natural flavor, attractive texture, and healthy profile.

Without having to travel so far, the Spanish Michelin starred chef Jordi Esteve recognizes a “special attraction for challenges”, which is why, on the occasion of the celebration of Environment Week 2020, he prepared a plant-based menu made up of four dishes and a dessert in his ‘Nectari’ restaurant in Barcelona. Fingers, Mexican taco, cannelloni gratin, paella, and stuffed éclair to close the circle were the protagonists of his letter with an environmental wink. He made it from the product of a Catalan company that imitates the taste and texture of chicken but whose main component is soy. Esteve admits that the exploration of soy protein has been “a whole process of discovering the great potential in the mouth and firm textures that allow a thousand recipes to be made”.

Cell-based seafood

Concerning products based on fish cells, which are intended to help curb the overexploitation of the oceans, we must mention the American chef Gerard Viverito. He has become a gastronomic advisor to a company based in San Diego (USA) that works with this type of marine cell culture. The chef has already done several show cookings in which he has prepared everything from appetizers to soups and main dishes such as fish tacos, seafood pudding, poke, or ceviche. Viverito says he is “excited” to cook with a cell-based product like tuna tail that “represents sustainability and support for biodiversity in a new way. Another advantage he points out is that you don’t have to worry about fish bones, scales, or having to throw away unused parts of the fish.

The truth is, who thought decades ago that seaweed could reach the table? Well, the ‘chef of the sea’ Angel Leon bet hard for it and its restaurant Aponiente, in Cadiz, is now an icon of haute cuisine thanks, among other things, its famous pure plankton rice with aioli.

Cultured meat of animal cells, almost ready

One of the objectives of Ethicameat’s cultured meat is to contribute to expanding the choices of a menu that is highly committed to the environment and animal welfare. In this sense, it is worth remembering that from the cells extracted during a year from a single pig -without the need to resort to slaughter-, the same amount of meat can be produced as that obtained from 400 animals in the traditional model that involves their slaughter. The raw material is already on its way. Once the cultivated meat is ready for consumption, it will be the masters of the kitchen of the future who will surprise us with the most exquisite recipes.

The vegan shopping basket, a more ‘eco’ world

Much of Spanish consumption has been influenced by the emergence of a new global ethic that puts the welfare of animals and nature ahead of price or trends. In this sense, there has been a real boom in the natural, ecological, and vegan. From toothpaste to meat without animal sacrifice: the future of the shopping basket is ‘eco’.

New consumer demands for environmental sustainability have led to a paradigm shift in the production of goods and services. The trend towards vegan products is a reality that is gradually taking hold in Spain. In our country, 7.8% of the population declare themselves “veggie”, almost four million people. In this broad term converge vegans (people who do not consume any products of animal origin), vegetarians (people who consume mostly products of vegetable origin and occasionally some products of animal origin such as eggs, milk or honey) and flexitarians (people who in their diet give preference to products of vegetable origin occasionally consuming meat, seafood or fish).

We analyze below some of the reasons why it is estimated that this market will reach more than 4,400 million euros in 2020, to supply the almost 500 million ‘veggies’ in the world, approximately 6.6% of the world’s population.

Veggie trend, beyond a fad

According to data from The Green Revolution, a report produced by the consultancy firm Lantern in 2019, the reasons why the so-called “veggies” are betting on this type of product are based on three very definite reasons: for ethical and animalistic sensitivity, for the sustainability of the planet and health. Their weight is such that together they have motivated a notable increase in this type of product in recent years, making the “veggie” market a rising novelty for companies not only in the food sector, but also in the textile, cosmetic and all other sectors.

The profile of this type of consumer is a clue as to where this growing demand for goods and services is focused, since 51.2% of vegetarian and vegan consumers live in large cities. Moreover, they tend to be mostly women, more than 65% of a new generation whose commitment to animal welfare pushes them to choose products of plant origin in their daily lives and, in many cases, to adopt veganism as a philosophy of life.

With this growing trend towards products that are more committed to animal welfare, we find a market share with a power of attraction that is beginning to attract the attention of companies all over the world, from large multinationals to small companies that have seen in this change of priorities in the consumption of goods and services the door to a new production model based on environmental sustainability. Many products seek to satisfy these new market demands, from vegan toothpaste to wooden toys produced without chemicals. There is a wide spectrum of needs to be covered from the “veggie” side, but how do you recognize a product that meets the vegan commitment?

Vegan stamps, authenticity versus fashion

Vegan product certifications are in full swing due to the sustainability boom and its impact on the marketing world. Many companies have signed up to this sustainable trend, but how do you differentiate between “greenwashing” and a real vegan product? 

Although there is currently no official approval for the use of the term ‘vegan’ or ‘vegetarian’ on the labeling of products sold in this way in the EU, the consumer finds a useful tool in several quality seals or certificates. These labels are endorsed by experts who certify whether a product is truly vegan or just responds to a marketing strategy to attract the consumer. This information is usually included in the product packaging or labels, making it easy to identify at a glance.

The best known within the EU is the V-LABEL, with more than 10,000 products and services tested and a presence in 27 countries, but there are others around the world such as the Vegan seal in the UK, the Vegan seal in Latin America or the Certified Vegan (Vegan.org), from the United States.

Ethicameat’s commitment

Awareness of animal welfare is growing in our society. And this is precisely one of the commitments that drive Ethicameat’s innovative project: the production of sustainably grown meat, without animal sacrifice, high in protein, and without antibiotics. We believe that the choice to consume meat must also mean respect for animal life and care for the environment today.

Is there something in common between the new ways of meat production and farming crops?

Yes, of course. Both aim to establish more sustainable routines. In Ethicameat’s blog we analyze a phenomenon that, like cultivated meat, is called to play a leading role in the future of food: vertical farming. An innovative way to save water and soil.

Vertical farming is an innovative cultivation technique that consists of producing food on vertically sloping surfaces. Versus traditional agriculture, instead of growing vegetables and other foods at one level on the ground in a field or greenhouse, under this method they are produced in layers arranged in height, stacked on top of each other. It is usually carried out in large structures such as warehouses or industrial containers.

But does this new mode of cultivation have any advantages in terms of saving resources? The answer is yes. The objective of vertical farming is to maximize crop production in a limited space and in addition to save soil surface, water, and emissions. According to UN estimates, the world’s population will reach 9.7 billion people in 2050, which means that current food production will have to be intensified by 70% to cover global food needs. All this will be an increasing challenge in the context of the climate emergency and the level of deforestation in which we find ourselves.

The large-scale city garden

Vertical farming goes one step further than city gardens, increasingly common in homes and common spaces in large cities: the industrial-scale cultivation of local food, without pesticides and whose production does not generate emissions. Furthermore, from the consumer’s point of view, the purchase of fruit and vegetables are grown nearby by new techniques such as vertical farming can reduce emissions generated by transport and the supply chain as well. Vertical farming is one of the lines of research of the “Mediterranean Horticulture” group of the Polytechnic University of Cartagena, led by Professor Juan Fernández, which is trying to analyze the technology involved in this cultivation technique and also its profitability challenges.

The keys of vertical farming

It looks like science fiction but it’s real. Vertical crops rely on three key systems: hydroponics, aeroponics, and sometimes aquaponics. Through hydroponics, plants consume nutrients through the water distributed in their roots. In this way, plants receive a combination of mineral salts diluted in drinking water for their development without the need for soil.

Through aeroponics, the stems and roots of the plants, suspended in the air, are mechanically sprayed with a nutritive liquid. This technique is ideal for leaf crops such as coriander, rocket, lettuce or watercress.

Finally, one option sometimes applied in vertical farming is aquaponics, which introduces aquatic animals such as fish, snails or crabs into water so that their secretions serve as nutrients for plants.

In addition to the advantages mentioned above, it should be noted that the development of plants is faster, and crops can be produced throughout the year and in any place without depending on the weather conditions. Also, pest control of crops is easier and the use of fertilizers is not necessary. At the moment the great challenge is to advance in the sustainable generation of electric energy through LED lighting that vertical agriculture requires.

More sustainable, safe and quality food

Like all those who are already betting on vertical agriculture, Ethicameat works on the development of cultured meat to achieve a complementary alternative to traditional livestock farming that contributes to reduce the environmental impact. The objective of vertical agriculture and cultivated meat is to rely on innovation and technology to provide the food industry with more sustainable, safe, and quality products for the consumer. The consumer will soon have within reach a healthy and sustainable meat alternative of animal origin. Livestock farming consumes 25% of the planet’s freshwater and land and accounts for 15% of greenhouse gases. Our form of production consumes 99% less land, 75% less water and reduces emissions by 90% compared to a similar meat product. The future of sustainable food is getting closer!