Live from Future Food Tech: Anuj Maheshwari, Head of Agri-Food Investing at Temasek discusses their strategy for plant-based innovation and alternative proteins throughout the supply chain. Enjoy this episode of The Plantbased Business Hour with Elysabeth Alfano.
Elysabeth: We all know that the global food supply system is shifting. That we know. We have no choice; it’s happening. But these kinds of interesting partnerships, what do you see coming out of that?
Anuj Maheshwari: No, absolutely. I think it’s fascinating when we started this journey. We spoke to all the big boys. All the big names you talked about. There was such a large amount of scepticism. You know, “This doesn’t work. Cost is going to be an issue. How are you going to scale up? What if customers don’t like it? Remember GMO?” And I think the tide has completely shifted where the forward-looking large corporations are now much more in the partnership mode. They want to work with these companies. They realize that real innovation is coming out of it, so if we see ourselves somewhere in the middle being able to put a large amount of capital to work, but more as investors. So, we can provide that long term strategic capital, but we do not necessarily come with some of the constraints that the strategic investor comes in with.
Coming to your point with predictions, I certainly see these kinds of partnerships going stronger and stronger going forward. All of my conversations with the large companies and many of them we have seen over here are very much forward looking. They have created separate teams and they have created VCs. I have gotten to know some of the investment dollars that they have made, and I was completely taken aback, Elysabeth. These are not small amounts that these companies are putting in. So, they’re putting some serious capital behind some of these startups and that’s only going to increase hopefully.
Elysabeth: Do they see this as a, “Yes and?” So, in addition to the animal feed that ADM produces, and they are continuing to produce animal feed, is alternative proteins and plant-based innovation a, “Yes and?” play or do they ultimately see it as a replacement down the line?
Anuj Maheshwari: It’s an interesting question because I don’t think that any of us knows that. We can have our views about where it is going to go, but the reality is as we are trying to make the food system more efficient. We also have to continue to feed the world. So, it’s like you have to drive a car at sixty miles an hour and you still have to turn it and make it better. You don’t have the luxury to stop it, fix the car, and then start it. We just can’t do that. We have a growing amount of people to feed. So, I think there is a balance in terms of how much disruption happens. The efficiencies are going to be there, so I think large companies, whether it’s the Cargills or the ADMs of the world, play a very important role in providing food in a reasonably efficient way at a low cost to people around the world. But many of these companies know that digital biotech and plant-based is a force to reckon with. Whether it’s going to be 10%, 30%, or if we’re going to eliminate animal agriculture completely, it’s too early to predict.
But if history has its way- you know we used to use a horse carriage to move from one place to another and I’m sure you’ve read a lot of books, nobody thought that horses would be eliminated. In fact, horses used to go and fill up the gas in the early Ford cars because there were no petrol stations or gas stations as you call it, and people thought, “How are you going to have this infrastructure to have gas when you can always find oat anywhere and the horse can graze on the grass by the side of the road so you never run out of fuel in a horse?”
So, history has its own way and we have seen when a new technology comes in and becomes all encompassing, but I think it’s too early to predict, and I would imagine that these companies are really looking at it as a new area of focus rather than it’s going to eliminate the existing system completely.
Elysabeth Alfano is the CEO of VegTech™ Invest, the advisor to the VegTech™ Plant-based Innovation & Climate ETF, EATV. She is also the founder of Plant Powered Consulting and the Host of the Plantbased Business Hour.