When people talk about the future of food, they often start by talking about how the human population is projected to reach 10 billion people by the year 2050. To feed a rapidly growing population with an expanding middle class on a warming planet, we’ll have to use new technologies and build new systems to grow and distribute food. But whether it’s about choosing our next meal or feeding a growing population, the stories we tell about the future of food are full of impossible tradeoffs between taste, cost, health, and the environment (think Soylent vs. Whole Foods). And when it comes to GMOs specifically, the tradeoff is even more stark. Will it ever be possible for food be sustainable, healthy, delicious, and affordable?
At Ginkgo, we believe that biotechnology is an essential part of the future of food, and we hope that it can give us more options, not fewer. We’re working towards a future where genetic engineering and cultured ingredients can help make foods that are more sustainable, healthier, delicious, and more accessible for everyone. It’s what drives our work with customers in the flavor & fragrance and food industries to make cultured ingredients and the work of Joyn Bio, our joint venture with Bayer engineering microbes for more sustainable agriculture.
Today we’re thrilled to be launching Motif Ingredients, a new company built on Ginkgo’s platform to address one of the biggest challenges and changes emerging for the future of food—protein. Recognizing the benefits to health and sustainability that come from a plant-based diet, consumer demand for complements to animal proteins has exploded in the past few years, for products ranging from oat milk to “bleeding” veggie burgers. Companies ranging from brand new startups to industry giants have rapidly innovated new foods based on alternative proteins, but there’s so much more to do to make these options as healthy, delicious, sustainable, and accessible as they should be. Motif Ingredients will use Ginkgo’s Foundry to discover and develop these necessary new alternative protein ingredients that can be made via fermentation, not animal agriculture.
Motif Ingredients is launching today with $90M in Series A funding from Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Fonterra, Louis Dreyfus Company, and Viking Global Investors. Our investors come from both high tech venture capital and traditional food producers that have been feeding the world for more than a century, all believing in our platform’s ability to deliver more alternatives for everyone’s “food future”. Motif will operate from Ginkgo’s offices in the Boston Seaport and leverage our foundries to discover the next generation of alternative proteins. We’re also excited to welcome industry veteran Jon McIntyre to the team as Motif’s CEO. Formerly the head of R&D at Indigo Ag and prior to that, a Senior VP of R&D at PepsiCo, Jon brings a wealth of experience in global food systems and alternative proteins to Motif.
A platform for discovering the next generation of food proteins
Proteins in animal products like meat, dairy, and eggs are essential for the taste, texture, nutrition, health impact, and overall experience of many foods that we eat. Food proteins have unique structural and functional properties, whether they are egg proteins giving a dessert its fluffy texture, or milk proteins protecting a baby’s digestive system from dangerous bacteria. Motif will make different proteins like these via fermentation of engineered microbes, without animal agriculture, to create a rich palette of alternative protein ingredient options for people developing new foods.
Ginkgo’s platform enables biological engineers to deeply study thousands of different protein options across a vast space of biological diversity, discover the proteins that provide the greatest functional benefit, and increase their accessibility at large scale. There is so much that we don’t yet know about even the most common foods, so the ability to search this breadth of biological diversity is essential. Even in the last 5 years, hundreds of new proteins have been discovered in milk and eggs that confer benefits to people who eat them. With Motif, we’re on a mission to explore all that animal proteins have to offer, to enable the next generation of alternative proteins.
Beyond cow’s milk and hen’s eggs, there are also foods with vital benefits that are impossible to access in large amount sustainably, such as sturgeon eggs, camel milk, and everything in between. Just one year ago, scientists discovered a new protein in platypus milk that has surprising antibiotic properties. Using DNA sequence analysis and synthesis, Motif’s scientists will be able to discover and produce hundreds of proteins from many different animals, to understand how their milk and eggs nourish and sustain life in its earliest stages and identify important new ingredients.
At Ginkgo, we are always learning from the creativity of biology and the full breadth of biodiversity to grow better, more sustainable products. We’re so excited to work with Motif as they look to biodiversity to find the proteins that will enable new creativity in food. We’re thrilled to welcome Motif to our platform and to support the next generation of chefs, food designers, and food visionaries who need new ingredients and tools for the future of food.