Gates Foundation Grants Funding to Startup that Utilizes Brewing Byproduct as Sustainable Replacement for Palm Oil

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is pumping $3.5 million into C16 Biosciences, the Y Combinator-backed company fermenting alternatives to the environmentally destructive palm oil business. While the industry’s given itself something of a makeover lately, deforestation linked to palm oil production is once again on the rise. Using yeast and agriculturally derived feedstocks, C16 already brews an alternative to the seed oil for use in beauty products, under the name Palmless. A 2020 study found that climate pollution from palm oil plantations alone equate to about half that of the whole aviation industry. In addition to the Gates Foundation and Elemental, C16’s previous investors include Bill Gates’ Breakthrough Energy and DCVC.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is investing a significant amount of money, specifically $3.5 million, into C16 Biosciences, a company focused on creating alternatives to the environmentally harmful palm oil industry. This substantial grant is being given in addition to a $1 million contribution from Elemental Excelerator, a non-profit accelerator dedicated to supporting climate technology with a strong emphasis on positive community impact.

Palm oil can be found in a multitude of products, including soaps, biofuels, chocolates, and even instant ramen. While the industry has attempted to improve its image, the devastating consequences of deforestation caused by palm oil production continue to be a major issue.

C16 Biosciences is already working on a solution by using yeast and feedstock derived from agriculture to produce an alternative to palm oil, known as Palmless, for use in beauty products. With the additional funding, the company plans to expand its efforts to develop new oil recipes for use in food. This will involve utilizing both leftover feedstock and feedstock that is not derived from agriculture. C16 co-founder and CEO Shara Ticku revealed that they are even exploring the potential of using feedstock derived from carbon capture.

The impact of deforestation extends beyond just the environment, with a 2020 study finding that the pollution caused by palm oil plantations alone equates to roughly half of the emissions from the entire aviation industry. In fact, deforestation is responsible for nearly one third of all carbon dioxide emissions since 1850, according to Jerry Melillo, an ecologist at MIT.

In addition to the Gates Foundation and Elemental, C16 Biosciences has received support from other notable investors including Bill Gates’ Breakthrough Energy and DCVC.

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Zara Khan

Zara Khan is a seasoned investigative journalist with a focus on social justice issues. She has won numerous awards for her groundbreaking reporting and has a reputation for fearlessly exposing wrongdoing.

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