The New Omnivore Mini-Conference: Photos and A Recap

On December 10th, 2015 I had the pleasure of hosting The New Omnivore's first Mini-Conference - a 3-hour event organized to give the public a detailed look and discussion about animal-free food innovation.

Held at IndieBio's headquarters in San Francisco, the event featured an amazing line-up of companies, speakers, and start-up co-founders, including Ryan Bethencourt (Indiebio), Sindha Agha (Hampton Creek), Arturo Elizondo (Clara Foods), Alex Lorestani (Gelzen) and more. 

Before the event, guests were treated to an assortment of delicious cookies donated by Hampton Creek. Thanks to Caleb Kim and Jamie Foley for our great photos!


The event kicked off with a presentation by New Omnivore, where I explained what the term "new omnivore" means and the important reasons why we should move away from conventional meat, including the environmental, food safety, and animal welfare problems.

But the great news is we have a choice. Modern technology can free us from our dependence on animals for meat, milk and eggs. If we want to positively change our food system, we must learn about and support these innovations. 

I concluded the slides with a look at our choices for the future of food: we can continue the violent, unsustainable business of industrial farming and slaughtering animals, or create a new industry where meat and other animal products are cultured in modern factories or made with plants . The future can be a much better and brighter place - the choices is ours. 

 The farm of the future: more industrial slaughterhouses or a modern cultured meat factory? 

The farm of the future: more industrial slaughterhouses or a modern cultured meat factory? 


Ryan Bethencourt of IndieBio then took to the stage to discuss IndieBio's groundbreaking work in accelerating biotech research and startups. 

IndieBio's companies are working on a lot of exciting things, from future of food to medical products to DNA "bioclouds" that make genetic research more accessible and affordable


Following Ryan, Sindha Agha and Jasmin Hume of Hampton Creek came up to give a talk on their company's role in a better future for food. Sindha works with Hampton Creek's marketing team while Jasmin is an R&D assay scientist. They gave a detailed overview of Hampton Creek's work in assessing the properties of plants, as well as its bold vision for making food healthier, more sustainable, and generally better for everyone. Best part of the talk: they announced Hampton Creek is working on some 40 new products! 


 After Hampton Creek, we took a break and pulled out a game of fun San Francisco trivia. Sample of questions: What is the steepest street in San Francisco? (Filbert Street) In what park did the Beatles play their last full concert? (Candlestick Park) And, San Francisco was part of which country until 1848? (Arturo Elizondo of Clara Foods correctly answered that one - Mexico)

The prize of choice was a nice bag of Candy Coal, which Jenny Kaehms helped me to throw out to the winners

 After the break, Seth Bannon took to the podium to give an interesting talk on the state of cultured meat research. 

Main takeaway: while cultured meat technology has seen rapid advancement in the last few years, this area still remains under-funded and in need of more dedicated researchers. 


After Seth, we came to the final part of the Mini-Conference - our panel discussion!

I was super excited to welcome an amazing roster of startup co-founders: Arturo Elizondo from Clara Foods, Alex Lorestani from Gelzen, Uma Valeti from the up-and-coming Memphis Meats, and Michelle Wolf from New Wave Foods

With yours truly as moderator, the panel delved into a number of important questions including:

- What are the greatest challenges facing animal-free food production? (Answer: Costs and scaling)

- As animal-free industries advance, what will happen to those that rely on conventional meat by-products, such as the pet food industry? Answer: Cultured meat also makes meat by-products which can be used for that 

 - Besides investing in companies, how can people support animal-free food innovation? (Answer: buy and tell others about high quality plant-based meats [Gardein, Field Roast, Beyond Meat, etc.], donate to organizations like New Harvest, educate others about cultured meat, and follow The New Omnivore, since this is what we're about)

Awesome quote from Alex Lorestani: "There are a lot of new things you can do with food when you don't rely on sentient beings to produce your protein."


The audience also got a chance to talk to the panelists questions during Q and A, and asked a variety of questions about biofabricators, 3-D printing and more. Above all, they wanted to know when they would be able to try the companies' products. Although none of the panelists had a specific timeline when their own products would be commercially available, it is known that the first cultured leather (from Modern Meadow) is expected to appear in 2018, and the first cultured meat might arrive in 2020.

And on that hopeful note, we concluded the very first New Omnivore Mini-Conference! It was a pleasure for me to co-organize and host, and it was a nice preview of the actual, full-sized New Omnivore Conference that will take place in Miami in September 2016. 

Special thanks to my awesome co-organizer Jenny Kaehms, Jasmin Hume and Hampton Creek for donating cookies, Golden Era Chinese Restaurant for providing a delicious tray of food, plus Citizen FoxTimeless Coffee, and Souley Vegan for their generous gift card donations to our raffle. Cheers!

Janay Laing - Founder, The New Omnivore