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Startup Looking to Replace Palm Oil with Fungi

Biotech startup CarboCycle believes that oil derived from fungi - including mushrooms, yeasts, and molds - in a lab could be a viable and more sustainable alternative to palm oil.

The project, which was begun out of the environmental engineering lab at Columbia University, explained that the fungi are fed from organic waste, and the process entails multiple stages including fermenting the organic waste, to collecting the final microorganisms, to extracting the oil from their cells. However, the entire process can be completed in two to four days - indicating the potential for the rapid scaling up of output.

The project addresses various challenges - it reduces organic waste, which according to the Environmental Protection Agency makes up half of the waste produced in the U.S.; it reduces the carbon dioxide emissions produced by this waste as it decomposes; and it offers an alternative to palm oil, which has been linked with deforestation, the degradation of habitats, and human rights violations - associations that global food companies are striving to separate from their brands.

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