36 min

Which Came First: The Chicken or the Potato‪?‬ Business for Good Podcast

    • Business

Many listeners of this show will be familiar with precision fermentation, or turning microbes into factories to produce proteins like those proteins that have historically been produced inside of chickens and cows. Think of companies whose founders we’ve had on, like Perfect Day and The Every Company.
But, what if instead of using microbes as protein factories—and all the associated costs of bioreactors and other capex—you could simply turn plants into protein factories, and make actual animal proteins inside of the plants, which can then be extracted and sold?
That’s exactly what Israeli startup PoLoPo is doing inside of potatoes. Their first protein: Ovalbumin, or the protein that makes up most of the egg white’s protein content. If you pay attention to ingredient decks on food packaging, you’ve probably noticed that albumin is an ingredient in many foods, often serving to help color and texturize foods, as well as serving as a high-quality source of protein. In fact, the global egg albumin market is valued at billions of dollars, with some estimates around $5 billion USD and others as much as $30 billion USD.
Founded in 2022, PoLoPo has already raised a couple million US dollars to scramble that market with real egg proteins grown inside of potatoes. Since the process is totally animal-free, it should go over easy as a  vegan ingredient, but since it’s an actual egg protein, those with egg allergies will still want to avoid cracking open a food with PoLoPo’s Ovalbumin.
In this episode, PoLoPo CEO Maya Sapir-Mir and I chat about her work as a plant biologist, how she teamed up with a vegan scientist to co-found this company, her passion for using bioengineering to help save the planet, and of course, how she plans to use the humble potato to displace some of the need for chickens in our food industry. 
Discussed in this episode
2022 Food Navigator story on PoLoPo’s technology.
Our past episodes with The Kitchen and Aleph Farms. 
As well, Paul recommends reading Resetting the Table, whose author we did an episode with too.
Fellow molecular farming startup Moolec received approval from the USDA for its soybeans that contain pig proteins. 
More about Maya Sapir-Mir
Maya Sapir-Mir is CEO and co-founder of PoLoPo, a molecular farming pioneer producing proteins directly in common crops, beginning with egg protein (ovalbumin) grown in potatoes. She has nearly ten years of experience in the biotech industry and agricultural R&D, including senior management at a small cannabis industry startup. In addition to leading R&D on plants with commercial and medical applications, she managed collaborations with partners and customers.
She holds a PhD in plant sciences and an MSc in plant genetics from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and a BSc in biochemistry from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. She performed post-doctoral work at the Volcani Institute, Israel’s leading agricultural R&D facility, creating a new area of research for the organization in Protein Identification, Extraction, and Characterization in plants and microorganisms.

Many listeners of this show will be familiar with precision fermentation, or turning microbes into factories to produce proteins like those proteins that have historically been produced inside of chickens and cows. Think of companies whose founders we’ve had on, like Perfect Day and The Every Company.
But, what if instead of using microbes as protein factories—and all the associated costs of bioreactors and other capex—you could simply turn plants into protein factories, and make actual animal proteins inside of the plants, which can then be extracted and sold?
That’s exactly what Israeli startup PoLoPo is doing inside of potatoes. Their first protein: Ovalbumin, or the protein that makes up most of the egg white’s protein content. If you pay attention to ingredient decks on food packaging, you’ve probably noticed that albumin is an ingredient in many foods, often serving to help color and texturize foods, as well as serving as a high-quality source of protein. In fact, the global egg albumin market is valued at billions of dollars, with some estimates around $5 billion USD and others as much as $30 billion USD.
Founded in 2022, PoLoPo has already raised a couple million US dollars to scramble that market with real egg proteins grown inside of potatoes. Since the process is totally animal-free, it should go over easy as a  vegan ingredient, but since it’s an actual egg protein, those with egg allergies will still want to avoid cracking open a food with PoLoPo’s Ovalbumin.
In this episode, PoLoPo CEO Maya Sapir-Mir and I chat about her work as a plant biologist, how she teamed up with a vegan scientist to co-found this company, her passion for using bioengineering to help save the planet, and of course, how she plans to use the humble potato to displace some of the need for chickens in our food industry. 
Discussed in this episode
2022 Food Navigator story on PoLoPo’s technology.
Our past episodes with The Kitchen and Aleph Farms. 
As well, Paul recommends reading Resetting the Table, whose author we did an episode with too.
Fellow molecular farming startup Moolec received approval from the USDA for its soybeans that contain pig proteins. 
More about Maya Sapir-Mir
Maya Sapir-Mir is CEO and co-founder of PoLoPo, a molecular farming pioneer producing proteins directly in common crops, beginning with egg protein (ovalbumin) grown in potatoes. She has nearly ten years of experience in the biotech industry and agricultural R&D, including senior management at a small cannabis industry startup. In addition to leading R&D on plants with commercial and medical applications, she managed collaborations with partners and customers.
She holds a PhD in plant sciences and an MSc in plant genetics from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and a BSc in biochemistry from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. She performed post-doctoral work at the Volcani Institute, Israel’s leading agricultural R&D facility, creating a new area of research for the organization in Protein Identification, Extraction, and Characterization in plants and microorganisms.

36 min

Top Podcasts In Business

The Ramsey Show
Ramsey Network
REAL AF with Andy Frisella
Andy Frisella #100to0
PBD Podcast
PBD Podcast
The Prof G Pod with Scott Galloway
Vox Media Podcast Network
People Magic: How to Build a $1M Community
Mighty Networks & Pod People
The Diary Of A CEO with Steven Bartlett
DOAC