By: Florian Schattenman, Chief Technology Officer and VP of Research and Development and Innovation, Cargill
When I tell people I’ve eaten a cricket, they often ask what it tastes like. My answer: a lot like the future – and a little crunchy with no flavor, which is a good thing for its use as a protein ingredient.
Why did I eat it? As Cargill’s CTO and head of R&D and innovation, I’m always hungry for a taste of the future. At Cargill, we are constantly thinking about innovative ways to sustainably feed a growing world — from artificial intelligence in farming to sustainable sweeteners and to new forms of protein.
By estimates, close to 40,000 startups are springing up across the industry and bringing with it an explosion of innovation. It begs the question: In an age of lean startups and fast-paced innovation, can a company like Cargill keep up?
Don’t let our age and size fool you. We can think and act like a startup too. In fact, through a new team I’m leading – the Strategic Growth Business Accelerator – we’re using the best of our 157 years in business to play in some of the industry’s fastest-growing spaces. Think of the team as a startup within Cargill, designed to accelerate and scale up strategically selected businesses with big growth potential.
Here are a couple ways it’s already working.
Trusting our gut on human health
Cargill’s foray into human health started with an accidental discovery. Nearly 25 years ago, employees at our Diamond V manufacturing facility – where we produce fermented animal feed that improves livestock health – weren’t using much of their sick leave. A study showed employees exposed to the feed had surprisingly improved immune systems. After years of safety and clinical testing, EpiCor®, a yeast fermentate that helps support a healthy immune system, was born.
EpiCor is one of our fastest-growing products, and we’re continuously making investments in probiotic companies that improve health for adults and even infants. We’re accelerating our human health technologies business – including pre-, pro- and postbiotics by taking our science expertise in areas like fermentation and investing in select human clinical trials.
From farm (or lab) to fork
How do you make a burger without meat? Ice cream without milk? As demand for alternative protein rises, these are the kinds of questions our customers ask us. Cargill entered the alternative protein market over 50 years ago with soy protein and we’ve made big investments in areas like pea protein, plant-based alternatives, cultured meat and cultivated seafood. We also have the expertise across the supply chain: from ingredients to formulation, we can bring new products to market all under one roof.
We know traditional protein isn’t going anywhere. Accelerating in alternative protein is all about bringing more options to your dinner table — and sustainably feeding a growing world.
Our accelerator is paving the path for us to help shape the future of food and agriculture. Like startups, we’re lean, fast-paced and have a team of brilliant scientists who care deeply about nourishing the world in a safe, responsible and sustainable way.