What do the marmalade you put on your toast and the vitamin you perhaps take at the same time have in common? Both have an ingredient called citric acid, an ubiquitous, weak organic acid. Indeed, citric acid is the molecule that led to the technology which enabled the mass production of penicillin.

Citric acid is a naturally occurring molecule found most concentrated, as the name might suggest, in citrus fruit. Today citric acid is a commodity chemical produced and consumed throughout the world, across a range of industries. As an antioxidant and acidifier it can be used to preserve and…


Sugar is one of the world’s most glorious ingredients. Deliciously sweet, it brings flavour and texture to so many of the dishes and products we love. But as we all know, sugar has a dark side. Alongside health issues like obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay, sugar is a volatile and highly political commodity. Over the years, alternatives like artificial sweeteners, corn-based sweeteners, and even other natural sweeteners like honey or maple syrup have cropped up to try and combat some of these issues, but they all have their drawbacks as well. …


Public perception can be a fickle thing. Behaviours, products, practices and technologies go in and out of favour all the time, and over the years, the morals and values of the majority change. Social acceptance of homosexuality, women voting, or racial integration was once deemed unimaginable but is now ubiquitous — a social license was granted. On the flip side, some practices that were once perfectly reasonable like smoking indoors, drinking alcohol while driving or allowing dogs to poop in the middle of the sidewalk now seem shocking, ridiculous and are no longer socially acceptable — the social license was…


How do chocolate goodies keep their sheen and creamy texture, even while sitting on store shelves? Increasingly, the answer is palm oil (and palm kernel oil), the world’s most widely consumed vegetable oil[1]. In our report Rethinking Food and Agriculture 2020–2030, we discuss how precision fermentation (PF) is rapidly improving in cost and capabilities so that it could be used to make any protein at speed and scale. But PF is not just about protein, in fact a wide variety of molecules can be made via PF, including those found in palm oil.

Store-bought chocolate cream balls, which the author…


At the heart of our work at RethinkX are cost curves. They are much more than a visual tool for understanding the exponential fall in costs, they are a roadmap to explaining how disruption happens.

In the case of precision fermentation (PF), each step down the cost curve has opened up the cost competitiveness for new sets of products, from pharmaceuticals (like insulin[1]), enzymes, flavors and fragrances, to cosmetics, materials, food, and all in-between. We talk about some of these products and companies in our blog “Precision fermentation is nothing new and it’s here to stay”.

Today, the cost of…


There is a major disruption coming to the food system, one that is well detailed in our report Rethinking Food and Agriculture. In the report, we identify the core disruptive technology over the next 10 years to be precision fermentation (PF). The regulation of PF is key to shaping the disruption.

Regulation and the food system go hand in hand, and rightfully so. Food has a direct relationship with public and personal health, and people must be protected from real threats to safety and any uncertainties with the ingredients in the food they eat, or how those foods are produced.


Today, we are on the cusp of multiple disruptions in food and materials. So why now? In a previous blog we discussed how precision fermentation (PF) has been around for 40 years. We know this because we can pinpoint the first product commercialized from PF — human insulin. Human insulin is an illustrative example of how PF created a superior product that led to a rapid disruption of an incumbent product.

In this blog, we discuss some of the technology convergence that led to scientists being able to produce human insulin via PF, as well as some of the economic…


“The prevailing production system will shift away from a model, of centralized extraction and the breakdown of scarce resources that requires vast physical scale and reach, to a model of localized creation from limitless, ubiquitous building blocks — a world built not on coal, oil, steel, livestock and concrete but on photons, electrons, DNA, molecules and (q)bits. Product design and development will be performed collaboratively over information networks while physical production and distribution will be fulfilled locally. As a result, geographic advantage will be eliminated as every city or region becomes self-sufficient.”

Rethinking Humanity, RethinkX, June 2020

Throughout history, technology…


In Part 1 we discussed why Covid-19 has impacted industrial livestock farming. Here we discuss the rise of the new protein industry in a post-Covid-19 world. Covid-19 is accelerating the collapse of the old system and the growth of a new one.

Will Covid-19 speed up the replacement of livestock with a new system of agriculture?

The short answer is yes. Aside from adding immense, crushing pressure to the farming industry, Covid-19 has highlighted the need for continuing food innovation as an essential component of a resilient food system. Early entrants have already proven that new production models are far more resilient than the existing system.

Sales of plant-based foods have sky-rocketed, with fresh-meat…


In Rethinking Food & Agriculture, published in 2019, we predicted that there will be 50% fewer cows in the US by 2030 and that by 2035 the livestock industry will be all but bankrupt. This was considered fast by many observers, but Covid-19 has since revealed the fragility of the global food supply chain, pulling back the curtain in dramatic fashion on its economic vulnerabilities and inefficiencies.

This particular disruption of livestock happened because of an acute event, the pandemic, rather than the convergence of new technologies as we predicted in our report. But our analysis that the livestock industry…

RethinkX, disruptive technology think tank

RethinkX is an independent think tank that analyzes and forecasts the speed and scale of technology-driven disruption and its implications across society.

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