In case you missed it, July 2023 was the hottest month ever recorded on Earth. On the bright-ish side, research shows that 69% of Americans want our nation to become carbon neutral by 2050. Achieving that goal will require changing the way we think and act about sustainability.
But, when push comes to shoveling food into our faces, how far are we willing to go? Will we make room on our plates for lab-cultured meat or pour frosty mugs of genetically modified beer? And will shifts such as these meaningfully help us avoid worst-case climate scenarios?
These are just a few of the questions we can’t wait to digest when Charles Denby, co-founder and CEO of Berkeley Yeast, and Matthew Walker, managing director of food and agriculture at S2G Ventures, join us for a session called “Beer, Lab Meat and Climate Chaos.” You’ll find it cooking on the Sustainability Stage at TechCrunch Disrupt 2023, which runs September 19–21 in San Francisco.
Denby’s Berkeley Yeast focuses on genetically modifying yeasts to imbue beer with a range of different flavor notes. One such yeast produces hoppy-tasting beer without hops, a crop that requires a lot of energy and water throughout the growing and drying process. Can the company find ways to slash emissions from other fermented products?
And Walker sits on the board of Believer (formerly Future Meat Technologies), which focuses on lab-grown chicken; Greenlight, a firm applying RNA tech to agriculture; and Hazel, which focuses on boosting the shelf life of produce.
We have the technology to make foods and beverages more sustainable. But do enough people want to try them, and can we scale them to wide availability, affordability and profitability?
And, more broadly, who’s working on limiting the environmental toll of other ubiquitous foods and drinks? Can we really preserve beer, meat and other cultural touchstones — like coffee and wine — while mitigating climate chaos? Don’t miss what promises to be an insightful conversation on the future of sustainable food and drink.
Learn more about our speakers — and their qualifications for tackling this tasty topic — below.
Charles Denby: Berkeley Yeast co-founder and CEO
Charles Denby is a scientist turned entrepreneur. Working under UC Berkeley professor and renowned metabolic engineering pioneer Dr. Jay Keasling, Denby spent his early scientific career bioengineering yeast to produce next-gen biofuels (e.g., clean diesel). His career path, however, was redrawn by a hobby.
While exploring home brewing as a way to engage his passion for beer, Denby saw how the same technology used for making biofuels could be applied to the production of beer and wine, making them more consistent, efficient and less reliant on resource-intensive agricultural products such as hops and fruit.
In 2017, he co-founded Berkeley Yeast to commercialize this technology and its transformative benefits. Today, the company sells bioengineered yeast with extraordinary capabilities to hundreds of breweries and wineries across the country.
Matthew Walker: S2G Ventures managing director of food and agriculture
Matthew Walker has more than 10 years of experience in venture capital, investment banking and securities law. At S2G, Walker focuses on making investments, managing portfolio companies and serving on various portfolio company boards.
Before joining S2G, Walker was an investment banking associate at Perella Weinberg Partners in New York, where he focused on M&A and restructuring transactions across a range of industries. Prior to that role, he served as a securities attorney in the funds, regulation and equity derivatives practice at Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft, LLP in New York.
Walker has an MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, a JD from New York University School of Law, and a BS in mechanical engineering from the University of Michigan. He is also a member of the Illinois Board of Trustees of the Nature Conservancy.
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