Billions of commercial honeybees compete with thousands of native pollinator species for nectar, contributing to a dangerous global decline in their populations. We previously reported on how pollination technology is being developed to ease dependency on commercial honeybee services, but would a reduction in hive numbers inadvertently impact on the availability and price of honey?
Demand for honey is high, humans have been consuming it for at least 9000 years. Today UK consumers get through 86 million lbs annually, with 95% of that honey imported – bringing with it an environmental cost. Honey consumption in the U.S. has nearly doubled since 1986, from 339 million lbs to 603 million lbs in 2020 say the USDA’s Economic Research Service. British and American consumers wouldn’t take kindly to a reduction in honey supplies should technology cause a reduction in hives.
What if it was possible to create honey in a lab – a honey biologically identical to the real thing? Vegans would be able to consume it and with the risk of contamination from farm sprayed chemicals completely removed from the mix it might even be purer and healthier than natural honey.
US start-up MeliBio (Berkeley, California) is pioneering a proprietary technology based on plant biology, precision fermentation, and food science that replaces honeybees with microorganisms as a medium for honey production. MeliBio’s goal is to produce honey that matches and improves upon the molecular composition of bee-made honey.
Founded in 2020 by scientist Aaron Schaller, PhD and honey industry executive Darko Mandich, MeliBio is focused on bringing innovation to the 9,000-year old global honey industry and making it sustainable, but without sacrificing the taste or benefits associated with high-quality insect made honeys.
CULT’s new strategic investment
After coming out of a leading global start-up accelerator program, Big Idea Ventures in New York, MeliBio attracted nine investors in March of this year, closing US$850,000 in a pre-seed round funding. Six months on and this week CULT Food Science Corp, an investment platform with an exclusive focus on clean, lab-grown food, has announced that it has completed a strategic investment in MeliBio.
CULT’s new investment advances its mission of building a focused portfolio of the most innovative, early-stage, lab-grown food companies and assets around the world. The investment also diversifies CULT’s portfolio to include honey, which is a US$10 billion global market.
The lab-grown food industry is in its infancy and is highly fragmented, with only one publicly-traded company currently available to investors in North America. Therefore, CULT is focused on creating an opportunity in the near term for individuals to invest in the future of food by offering access to a promising group of exciting and disruptive private companies in these sectors.
“At CULT, we believe strongly that the future of food will be science-based. In addition to pursuing lab-grown meat and cultured dairy investments, our team is diligently working to identify and deploy capital to the most innovative early-stage companies across the entire lab grown food ecosystem. The MeliBio team has an unrivalled expertise and passion, and we are thrilled to be able to support their mission of pioneering sustainable honey” said Dorian Banks, CEO of CULT.
We wait and watch with interest as MeliBio endeavours to help redress the world’s ecosystem imbalance for as MeliBio CEO and Co-Founder Darko Mandich says “That world is the place where the most delicious and nutritious food is accessible to everyone, but not at the expense of the sustainability of our planet.”