Benedetto Marelli – 4 – Cambridge Crops and the Scalability of Silk Based Coatings

Benedetto Marelli – 4 – Cambridge Crops and the Scalability of Silk Based Coatings


BENEDETTO MARELLI:
There is a company now that is called Cambridge
Crops that is working exactly on the scale up on
the food coating and is looking at new
opportunities that are a seed-based to
implement food coatings. So Cambridge Crops
is a company that was co-founded by me,
by [INAUDIBLE],, who was my previous PI at Tufts,
and by Olivia Valente, who is an entrepreneur
in the Boston area who has a huge
experience with C, and by Adam Barnes,
who is a former postdoc in the [INAUDIBLE] lab. And the four of us came together
to start this company that is called Cambridge Crops
because we saw the potential in the technology. And Adam, who is the
CEO of the company, has an incredible experience,
both scientifically– very strong scientifically
background– and a truly entrepreneurial spirit. And so now he is leading the
effort in running the company. And what the company
does is really finding, at the beginning, the
best crop for which the silk coating works very well
and solutions to scale up the process, because
of course, the token you need to pay when you’re
using structural biopolymers is that you might
have a scale up issue. The fact that you cannot
synthesize the material binds you to the fact that you need
to source the raw materials from nature. So for example, if this
comes from a particular part of the world, you need to
get the material from there. But then the
regeneration process of silk, that requires a lot of
thinking because one thing is, of course, making liters
of silk in the lab, silk in the liquid form. But in the lab,
when one thing is produced in hundreds
of thousands of liters in the company, right? And that’s is also one of
the challenges in using structural biopolymers
for agriculture is that we have very
high volumes compared to biomedical applications. And generally, the margin
that you add is much smaller. So we need to be
very careful in, for example, what kind of
crop we’re going to address and on the business plan that
the company is developing. So there are several
ways of thinking how Cambridge crops can develop. The bigger competitor,
if you like, is called Uphill,
which is a company that came out from University
of Santa Barbara. And what they do, so
they’re doing food coating. And what they do eventually,
they’re buying the produce. They’re coating, and then
they’re selling [INAUDIBLE].. And so for example,
now, if you go to Costco and you buy, like,
an avocado, that’s coated with their technology. So that could be a
possible way of doing it. So the idea would be either we
apply the coating in-house– so we buy the food, we apply
the coating, in housing, and then we sell it back. But I think what would
make a lot of sense is a partnership
with food industry. So this is what
Cambridge crops is doing. It’s trying really to
partner with food industry to showcase the technology
so that they can try it. And if they like it, we simply
give them the materials, and they’re going to
apply to their product. So in terms of the partnership
that Cambridge crops and my lab could be interested
in would be generally stakeholders in
the food industry. But particularly, I’m thinking
at the whole supply chain. So we can go from company that
process the food to company that eventually sells the
food– so retailer store.

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