The coffee trade is responsible for mass deforestation and is a major contributor to climate change, so in August when American start up Atomo announced they had developed the world’s first synthetic “coffee”, the beverage industry got excited.
Thanks to a multi-million dollar seed investment, the public can expect their first sip of bean-less coffee as early as 2020. “The coffee industry is ripe for innovation and change”, Atomo co-founder and food scientist Jarret Stopforth said in a statement. “The acceptance of agriculture alternatives has been proven with meatless meats and dairy-free milks, we want to continue that movement in a category we feel passionate about, coffee.”
HOW IS SYNTHETIC COFFEE MADE?
Unlike plant-based products in which existing food ingredients are used, Atomo’s coffee is ‘created’ in a lab. It is a molecular fluid, which includes quinic acid, dimethyl disulfide, niacin, 2-ethylphenol, and a handful of other ingredients.
WHAT IS THE APPEAL?
Atomo’s synthetic coffee product appeals to those consumers who care about sustainability and the damage that coffee production has caused to the environment. Water wastage from coffee is a serious concern. A recent report reveals that the average cup of coffee is produced with approximately 140 liters of water whether it be from irrigation, processing or on its journey to the café. The working conditions of many coffee farmers are also worth noting. Human rights issues such as poverty, child labour, and poor working conditions can all be part of the coffee production timeline.
Atomo has received USD $2.6 million in funding from venture capital firm Horizon Ventures, which has also backed the Impossible Burger (a successful meat substitute made from soy and potato proteins). And when it comes to synthetic food and beverage production it seems that coffee is just the beginning. Chicken, beef, pork, ice cream, bacon and similar products are the focus of many scientists efforts when it comes to the recreation of synthetic alternatives. These interesting technologies which disrupt traditional farming can potentially add great value to our global food system.