Food for thought

On Tuesday, some food critics sank their teeth into the world’s first lab-grown beef burger.

Scientists in the Netherlands had taken cells from a cow and turned them into strips of muscle that they combined to make a patty.

The burger received reasonable, if not overwhelmingly positive, reviews. Those who ate it seemed to agree that it was not unlike the real thing, but perhaps lacking in a little fat and flavour.

But what does this have to do with developments in IT? Well, this is where we get to the real meat of the story.

Google founder Sergey Brin has been revealed as the mystery backer of the lab-grown burger, which cost a staggering £215,000 to produce.

And he is not the only tech leader to have shown strong interest in the future of food production.

The co-founder of Paypal and early Facebook backer, Peter Thiel, has also invested in lab-grown meat. In 2012, his company, Breakout Labs, handed a grant to Modern Meadow, which creates leather and food via tissue engineering.

Then there’s Bill Gates, who has also dabbled in food production, although a different type – plant-based animal product replacements.

He has invested in a start-up called Hampton Creek Foods, which has been working on developing plant protein-based substitutes for eggs.

These are guys who could rightly be described as tech visionaries – people who have led the way in IT innovation.

Perhaps they will lead the way in food production innovation and help to end famine around the world.

They’re not IT innovators – they’re just innovators.

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