Meet the fixer: This scientist connects investors to new food tech. - Grist


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Grist 50

Meet the fixer: This scientist connects investors to new food tech.

Animal agriculture is a complex tangle of issues, all pulling in different directions: culinary tradition, animal welfare, methane emissions, deliciousness, deforestation. As a senior scientist at the Good Food Institute, a nonprofit dedicated to finding foods that will displace animal meat, Liz Specht looks for technological fixes to the beefy meat problem.

Specht spends her days researching ways to engineer plant-based foods that taste better, cost less, and consume fewer resources than animals. She then points startups toward the food technology that’s likely to work for them, and helps venture capitalists differentiate between companies proposing flashy BS and those who know their stuff. She’s an entrepreneurial matchmaker.

Specht lives in an RV, working remotely and roaming from state to state. Everywhere she goes, she steps into a store to see what plant-based products are available, where they are placed in the store, and how they are advertised. Making meat replacements might be a technical problem, but Specht is acutely aware that technology must move with culture. “I think of technology’s role as that of a dance partner to society, following its leads and anticipating its future moves,” she says. Time for the food industry to listen to the music.

Meet all the fixers on this year’s Grist 50.