Real Coffee… Without the Beans? Pluri Deploys Plant Cell Culture to Futureproof Coffee Supply Chain
Climate change is expected to significantly exceed the demand for coffee, leading to a flurry of creative solutions, including bean-free alternatives and more robust coffee plants. However, the question remains whether growing coffee from plant cells in bioreactors makes sense or only for ultra-high-value botanicals like saffron. Plant cell culture is a method where firms grow plant cells in bioreactors, using sugar as the primary feedstock. This technology has been used on a commercial scale to produce cancer drugs Paclitaxel and Docetaxel, and Elelyso, a drug used to treat Gaucher’s disease.
Growing coffee in bioreactors is seen as especially challenging due to the large volumes involved and relatively low prices compared to other botanicals. Israeli cell therapy specialist Pluri believes it can make economic sense with the right cell lines and technology. PluriAgtech, a subsidiary led by Michal Ogolnik, plans to spin out a plant cell-derived coffee business (PluriAgtech) as a new subsidiary. The company has designed a system that at scale can replace about 1,000 coffee plants and make a batch of coffee in about three weeks, whereas coffee can only be harvested from trees twice a year.
Pluri has two decades of experience in large-scale cell cultivation working on cell therapies for regenerative medicine and more recently on cultivated meat via a spin off company called Ever After Foods backed by Israeli food co Tnuva
The company takes samples from multiple parts of the plant, triggers them to return to a stem-cell-like state, and then grows them in sugary culture. They focus on cell lines with significant proliferation capacity and push them to differentiate into the bean-like cells. They grow in aggregates, harvest the biomass, dry and roast them.
PluriAgtech uses a less aggressive method to protect its coffee, using a less aggressive method that uses less energy and is shorter. The end product looks, smells, and tastes like ground coffee you buy in the supermarket, and they can control parameters such as the level of caffeine in the final product by modifying the growing conditions in the bioreactor.
PluriAgtech will build partnerships with coffee players to take its products to market, focusing on partners who are experts in the market and understand what the product should look like and how to position it. From a regulatory perspective, PluriAgtech believes the GRAS pathway makes sense as the US is one of their primary markets.
The coffee industry is facing a significant crisis due to climate change, with land suitable for growing Arabica potentially being reduced by 50% by 2050, leading to a significant reduction in production. Coffee is also a huge consumer of water, and demand for coffee is rising, particularly in large markets such as China and India. PluriAgtech is not on a mission to replace the coffee industry but is trying to fill a gap, with a 50% loss of a $130 billion industry if nothing changes between now and 2050.
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Source: Coffee Talk