By Alan Shaw Ph.D, CEO and Co-founder of Calysta
We’re celebrating the 10th anniversary of Calysta, both a proud and motivating milestone in our journey. In these 10 years, we’ve made strides towards transforming the future of food by producing alternative protein for potential use across all markets.
As I reflect on the last decade – the big decisions, our unwavering vision, and the highs and lows of navigating business- it seems right to start from the beginning.
A rapidly growing population and food insecurity were a mere rumble back in 2012. Then, suddenly in 2014, everyone said we needed another planet, and that we were running out of land and water. There was a vision on food security, but we certainly didn’t expect it to be an issue with the level of intensity it is now in 2022.
In those early days, when I was first introduced to the novel concept of utilising a special class of naturally occurring microbes called methanotrophs to convert methane into chemicals and fuels, I thought this could really be something. At the time, a lot of effort and money had gone into utilising biomass which, unlike methane, wasn’t cheap or readily available. In addition, there were many concerns about utilising crops to produce biofuels rather than food production.
Our breakthrough came in 2014 when we bought the rights to a proven technology developed by DuPont and Statoil. They had been working on using methanotrophs, via fermentation, to unlock the hidden value in methane as a cheap source of carbon and energy to produce protein, single-cell protein to be exact. It was a major pivot away from chemicals toward food and transformed the company and its potential.
Upon acquiring the technology, I invested my own money into Calysta. It was one of those moments where, as a founder, I placed a huge personal bet. A lot of that belief came from my confidence in biotechnology as I’d been working in or around it over the past 20 years. By 2016, we had set up a pilot plant in Teesside, my hometown, to start developing product samples for the industry, and allow our research and development teams to improve the production process.
My vision was to take this fermentation technology, build an amazing team and supercharge it with what we knew. At this point, the vision of food security became clear, and I could see our product as a valuable food source.
I’m a big believer in teamwork and loyalty. I care passionately about the company and its employees. When it comes to leadership, I don’t need to be the smartest guy in the room. If I have done my job well and chosen my team carefully it should be someone else, or I’m in the wrong room! Understanding the importance of asking ‘do you have a better idea? and giving people the opportunity to have a voice and put forward new ideas has been key to building a world-class management team and an incredible company.
After eight years of hard work, the last nine months have really been the most fruitful, particularly seeing our first industrial-scale FeedKind® plant completed in China. With the production of FeedKind® now underway it really marks a new and exciting phase in the Calysta story as we accelerate toward global rollout.
The coming years are important. It’s going to be pure execution. I believe we’ll be living in a world where our product is a massive contributor to protein consumption. It would be amazing to see at least 1 million tonnes of our product out there. By 2025, we will have penetrated the human food market across a range of applications including, but not limited to use in plant-based meat products as a supplement to plant-based protein, making a dramatic impact on land and water use. We truly believe it’s going to change the world.