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Lab-grown coffee cuts out the beans and deforestation

Date: 20.9.2021 

As the world's population continues to grow, so does the strain we place on the environment in our efforts to feed all those hungry mouths, and part of the solution may lie in the lab.

Kredit: VTT.We've seen how lab-grown meats like rib-eye steaks, burgers or chicken tenders could help address the massive environmental costs associated with livestock production, and we're now seeing some interesting possibilities emerge around one of the world's most popular drinks – coffee.

Heiko Rischer, Head of Plant Biotechnology at Finland's VTT research institute has been heading up a research project aimed at producing lab-grown coffee, using cells harvested from real plants. Last week, these efforts began to bear fruit, with the team producing its very first cup, which Rischer says smelled and tasted similar to ordinary coffee.

"The process uses real coffee plant cells," he tells us. "Initially a cell culture is started from a plant part eg. a leaf. The formed cells are propagated and multiplied on a specific nutrient medium. Ultimately, the cells are transferred to a bioreactor from which the biomass is then harvested. The cells are dried and roasted and then coffee can be brewed."

How long until these sustainable cups of joe find their way into the hands of coffee lovers around the world? Lab-grown coffee would first need to undergo regulatory approval by the relevant authorities in different markets. "We aim to team up with industrial partners in order to develop a real product," he says. "In the most optimistic scenario a commercial product could be ready in four years."





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