The Fermenter

Camille Delebecque

Job:CEO and co-founder, Afineur
Reps:Brooklyn, NY
Camille Delebecque

Green cred: Camille Delebecque wants to use fermentation to help feed the world. At Afineur, he’s using microorganisms to improve the taste and nutritional value of food by having them munch away at bad-tasting or indigestible molecules. Afineur released its first product at the end of last year — a fermented coffee bean cultured with bacteria that eat away bitter flavors.

Delebecque’s interest in coffee began in graduate school, when he was relying on the stuff “as a tool to survive.” That’s when he heard about civet coffee — a wildly expensive coffee bean that gets partially fermented in the digestive tract of the Asian palm civet. Intrigued, Delebecque teamed up with an old friend who did her PhD in food chemistry to find a quicker, more sustainable way to better-tasting beans.

What to expect in 2016: This year, Delebecque says the company will experiment with other foods. Some grains, for example, contain protein trapped in molecules that we can’t digest. By fermenting those grains with microbes that can digest those molecules, Delebecque says we could unlock hidden nutrients.

“How are we going to be able to feed 10 billion people by 2050? The best answer is probably to have as many people as possible switch to a plant-based diet,” he says. Delebecque says that through fermentation, we could increase the amount of available protein in plants by up to 20 percent, making them a more formidable meat substitute.

Favorite fermented food: “I couldn’t live without cheese.”