“Cows are extremely inefficient at turning plants into dairy.” This was one of the first things Nobell Foods founder and CEO Magi Richani said to me, and it continues to resonate. Just look at the numbers: it takes 6 kg of plant protein to produce just 1 kg of animal protein. That’s 10x… in the wrong direction. Additionally, that 1 gallon of milk requires a shocking 1000 gallons of water, not to mention that dairy cows contribute 2% of all greenhouse gas emissions.
And this only describes dairy as it exists today. This system isn’t simply inefficient — it’s unscalable and can’t meet the demands of the world’s growing population, which is estimated to reach 10 billion by 2050. To support this population, the world needs to produce an additional 880 million tons of food. This means the dairy industry will either need to grow (meaning more land for cows, plus plants and water to support those cows) or to be changed dramatically, for the better.
Do we have to make tough choices going forward? Or can we have it all? People love dairy products, and above all, they love cheese. A piece of pizza just isn’t the same without that melty stretchy goodness. So how do we get what we love about dairy without all the downsides?
The answer is to cut out the cow. Cows turn plants into milk (and specifically milk proteins), so let’s engineer our plants to make those same proteins! Now, this is not the same thing as making “milk” from plants as we see it today on shelves. The dairy of the future is composed of the same proteins as the genuine article, but produced by plants instead of a cow. This approach does benefit from these preceding plant-based “milks” (like rice, soy, and oat), in that it uses existing technologies for extraction and production.
The benefits of this approach are multifold. By many metrics, his plant-produced dairy is much more efficient than dairy-by-cow. It also blows traditional dairy away on sustainability and animal welfare. Lower price and increased health benefits are also projected.
That is why we are so excited to be investing in this effort led by Nobell (No + bell = free the cows!). Magi Richani is a polymath visionary who has not just seen how we can make this future happen, but has led the charge in making it a reality. Today, Nobell makes dairy proteins from plants, producing delicious cheeses at cost parity with animal cheese. But beyond that, Magi and her team are creating a whole new platform for food delivery, one that is better for all — people, animals, and the planet. They are creating a future where our grandchildren will say: “I can’t believe those wild creatures were held in muddy pens so we can drink their milk — that’s weird.”
I’m honored to support Magi and the team as a board member and help Nobell become the next generation dairy farmer.
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