Roots embarks on protein-planting program to target artificial meat market

Roots Sustainable Agricultural Technologies ASX ROO protein planting meat alternative
Roots Sustainable Agricultural Technologies is examining if its technology boosts protein in organic crops for the artificial meat market.

Roots Sustainable Agricultural Technologies (ASX: ROO) has confirmed it is in discussions with potential end-users of a protein planting program for the meat replacement market.

The company is currently in discussions with a European consultancy group and a bio-based organisation to apply for a bi-national grant between Israel and Holland.

The application will involve three companies, two of which must be based in Europe.

Roots is examining the impact of its root cooling technology on the protein content of organic crops.

This concept is being tested on four high-protein crops planted last month at the company’s research hub in Israel.

An upgraded version of the company’s Root Zone Temperature Optimisation (RZTO) technology will be used on these crops, which includes a newly-released heat exchange stub.

Initial results from the first stage of the program are expected in December.

Previous applications

The protein planting program is supported by previous RZTO applications which led to an increase in root volume and weight as well as vegetative activity, and increased the total biomass of the plants.

Results suggested the heating and cooling of plant roots may potentially increase total protein content.

Roots’s observations will be used to lead the organic segment of the artificial meat replacement market, which currently relies on industrially-grown, high protein crops with heavy use of herbicides and pesticides.

If Roots is able to successfully increase the protein content of crops, it could result in increased cost efficiencies for growers and farmers using the RZTO system.

Artificial meat trend

There is currently a growing global trend towards artificial and alternative meats.

In the US, fast-food chains such as McDonald’s and Burger King have been quick to release their own artificial meat offering.

In Australia, artificial meats have also grown in popularity, with Hungry Jacks recently releasing a plant-based “meat” burger.

Roots chief executive officer Dr Sharon Devir said consumer concerns about the environmental and health impacts of meat coupled with a changing approach from the food industry to create meat alternatives has contributed to the large growth in the meat-replacement market.

“The organic meat replacement segment is emerging as a significant opportunity for [our] root zone heating and cooling technology and we see great benefits for high-value crops grown indoors organically,” she said.

“Our technology enables year-round production with relative low energy demand which decreases the environmental impact.”

Dr Devir said Roots is also considering other opportunities in the artificial meat market which complement its technologies.

Nostromo agreement

Earlier this month, Roots confirmed it was collaborating with cold thermal energy storage company Nostromo Ltd to progress the commercialisation of its solar-powered, off-grid Irrigation by Condensation (IBC) technology.

IBC facilitates the production of entire food crops using irrigation sourced only from humidity in the air, even in semi-arid areas.

Under the terms of the agreement, the parties will work on the development of an autonomous and cost-effective water cooling and energy storage system to replace currently-used lithium batteries within the IBC system.

A combined demonstration at Nostromo’s Israel-based lab will use Nostromo’s IceBrick modular thermal cell to irrigate crops at night using only the condensation formed on the external surface of pipes.

IceBrick can be fitted as an extension to greenhouses or buildings and is claimed to be up to 10 times more efficient in energy density per square metre than other currently-available solutions.

Roots will be responsible for the installation of the IBC system and agronomical management, while Nostromo will oversee onsite data collection and analysis.

“Partnering with a cutting-edge energy storage provider will enable us to progress commercialisation of our IBC technology, addressing increased global demand for systems which mitigate drought,” Dr Devir said.

Capital raising

In May, Roots announced a $1.66 million capital raising exercise; however, significant delays in seeking shareholder approval resulted in a shortfall of approximately $600,000.

Yesterday the company said it had received “firm commitments” from sophisticated investors to raise an additional $820,000 (before expenses) through a private placement at $0.043 per share.

The price represents a 15% discount to the company’s 30-day volume weighted average price to 18 October of $0.051.

Funds raised will be used to commercialise RZTO opportunities, expand cannabis grower activity in the US, fund the pursuit of new cannabis and hemp opportunities and provide ongoing working capital.

At afternoon trade, shares in Roots were 19.57% higher at $0.055.