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Impossible Foods – Getting the Google Eye

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Touch the Soil News # 148

To get a more complete picture of what is going on here, a few words about Impossible Foods. Impossible Foods was created by Patrick O. Brown, MD, PhD and a Stanford University Biologist. The business is three years old and is located in Redwood City, California. To date, Brown has assembled an impressive staff of researchers and developers to include over 50 scientists, farmers and engineers. Their goal – make the best meats and cheeses you’ll ever eat – from plants. The team looked at specific proteins and nutrients from greens, seeds, and grains to recreate a very realistic experience of meats and dairy products from plants. Essentially, they have been able to transform plants into meat, milk and eggs.

Impossible Food Team (photo courtesy of Impossible Foods)

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The vision of Impossible Foods is to allow the world to transition from the environmentally unsustainable production of meat, cheese and eggs to plant based foods that taste virtually the same. With $75 million in venture capital funding in place, Impossible Foods is working to launch its foods.

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Very unusual in the food tech investment world is that the folks who put up the $75 million to Impossible Foods are all billionaires and include two of the world’s richest billionaires. These billionaires include Vinod Khosla via Khosla Ventures, Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing via Horizons Ventures, Google via its Google Ventures and Bill Gates (of Microsoft) via Gates Ventures.

Plant-based hamburger looks and tastes like its real meat counterpart (Photo courtesy of Impossible Foods)

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Very unusual in the food tech investment world is that the folks who put up the $75 million to Impossible Foods are all billionaires and include two of the world’s richest billionaires. These billionaires include Vinod Khosla via Khosla Ventures, Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing via Horizons Ventures, Google via its Google Ventures and Bill Gates (of Microsoft) via Gates Ventures.

So far, Impossible Foods has created a plant based hamburger from plants that is astonishingly and convincingly like real hamburger. According to Gigaom Research, as of last October (2014) it cost about $20 to produce one patty. However, Brown and his team must have convinced these billionaires that further development will lead to profitable commercialization. Impossible Foods hopes to start selling its “plant” burgers by the end of 2015.

Last Week, Google attempted to buy Impossible Food and pay off the other investors. Unfortunately it didn’t work out that way. Google offered $300 million for the company, but its existing stakeholders said that was not enough money.

So who has the biggest bucks in this consortium of billionaires? Clearly Gates and Google have the biggest checkbooks. While Gates has not involved Microsoft in this venture and is doing it on his own, suffice it to say that Microsoft has one of the world’s largest checkbooks – $96.5 billion in cash and short term investments as of 6/31/2015. Goggle on 6/31/15 had $69.8 billion.

In comparison, Wal-Mart, the world’s largest corporation, had only $9.1 billion as of 1/31/2015. For more perspective, on April 8, 2015, just a few days before people had to settle with the IRS for their taxes, the U.S. Treasury’s account at the Federal Reserve had only $44.2 billion. Normally the U.S. Treasury’s account balance is around $200 billion. So Google and Microsoft at times have more cash to operate their companies than the American public has in running the United States.

Why are folks, who control some of the nation’s largest checkbooks, interested in food? Putting personal opinions about population and the planets ability to feed everyone aside, the message from the world’s mega investors is clear: The growth curve of population is greater than the growth curve of food and farming output. This is not a criticism of Impossible Foods, which is striving to create solutions to the upcoming food dilemma. It is more of a sign that the largest checkbooks see a time of less than abundant food on the horizon.

Following is a short introduction video to impossible Foods.

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