Green Matters teamed up with WeWork for the month of April to celebrate Earth Day 2018 with a #workgreen challenge and Q&A series spotlighting sustainability-minded WeWork member companies. In this installment, we’re sitting down with Dr. Lisa Dyson, CEO of Kiverdi.
Company name: Kiverdi
What they do: Kiverdi uses natural microbes to turn carbon dioxide and other gases into oils, nutrients and bio-based products, from food and personal care items to clothing and biofuels.
Location: Hayward, CA
Why Kiverdi is so valuable: Our global food system is responsible for up to a third of all human-caused greenhouse gas emissions. With the human population expected to swell to around 10 million by 2050, it’s more important than ever that we figure out a way to live sustainably. Part of that requires us to rethink our entire food-production model. That’s where Kiverdi comes in.
GREEN MATTERS: In a nutshell, what is your company’s green contribution to the world?
Kiverdi technology uses all natural microbes (we call them nature's Super Charged Carbon Recyclers) to transform CO2 and other gases into high-valued oils, nutrients and bio-based products. The materials we produce can be used in a wide range of sustainable sourced products, both for consumer and industrial applications. By recycling carbon dioxide, we are bridging the gap between sustainability and profitability, enabling a future of abundance.
Dr. Lisa Dyson, an MIT PhD, is the founder & CEO of Kiverdi, a technology company on the path to develop innovations going beyond traditional agriculture to help feed and power the world. This is critical because our food system, including agriculture and deforestation, contributes about 20% of the global emissions of greenhouse gases. When it comes to the meat industry, for example, each cow produces the same amount of greenhouse gases as a car. So, how do we live sustainably today while also implementing new practices to ensure that we have a healthy planet as our population continues to grow to nearly 10 billion people by 2050? Lisa’s company is commercializing a NASA-inspired concept originally meant to enable the recycling of carbon dioxide onboard spacecraft, to convert carbon dioxide, which is in the air we breathe, into raw materials that can be used to make everyday products, including protein, by using a process very similar to brewing beer. Even better, this “brewed” protein contains all of the essential amino acids needed for a healthy diet. Lisa is driven everyday to bring this and our other carbon recycling solutions to market in order to contribute to a healthier and more sustainable future. To learn more about Lisa’s technology listen to her TED Talk “A forgotten Space Age technology could change how we grow food.”
What is the piece of your backstory that inspired you to create a business that converts CO2 to usable products?
Kiverdi began by pairing old research with innovations in biotech. My co-founder, Dr. John Reed, and I read some NASA technical reports that were written in the 1960s and 1970s, which discussed recycling carbon dioxide aboard spacecraft. We asked the question: Could we develop a similar technology that would enable us to recycle carbon dioxide here on Earth into valuable products? We discovered that the answer was yes, so we started a business to do it.
If you had to pick, what part of Kiverdi’s work are you most excited about?
Sustainability is becoming increasingly important to consumers. As they exercise their buying power more and more by choosing the most sustainably produced products, manufacturers and brands will have to increase production of these products. We have a long way to go, but progress is being made. The growing demand for sustainable ways of living and the innovation that is happening to meet this demand make me happy.
Additionally, when myself and the co-founder, Dr. John Reed, started Kiverdi, we were looking for technical solutions to help address climate change. Since then, I have had the privilege of working with so many people who have devoted their lives to having an impact. I get my inspiration from these people. From our team, our advisors, our investors, our customers and our partners. When individuals who have specific skills and resources come together to do something good, there is so much that can be accomplished. I continue to experience this and be inspired by it on a daily basis.
You’ve found a way to make sustainability profitable. What did you recognize as lacking in your industry that allowed your company to succeed?
Due to a population increase and an increasing demand for protein-rich diets, it is estimated that we will need to almost double food production in the next 30 years. Industrial agriculture cannot sustainably expand to meet this demand. Modern agriculture emits more greenhouse gases than our cars, planes, trains and trucks combined. In fact, the emissions from each cow is comparable to the emissions from a car. Livestock grazing occupies almost 30 percent of the Earth's terrestrial surface. The agriculture sector accounts for about 70 percent of global freshwater withdrawal and is the single biggest contributor to freshwater pollution due to fertilizer runoff.
Kiverdi is on a mission to feed and power the world by reinventing agriculture. With a proprietary, NASA-inspired process that is similar to making yogurt, we are able to produce oils - similar to plant-based oils such as palm oil - and protein, with a scalable process that uses carbon dioxide, scales vertically, and produces in hours instead of months or years. We produce “Free-From” products: gluten-free, hormone-free, antibiotic-free, and non-GMO.
Was there an aha! moment when you realized this business idea was really going to work?
At Kiverdi, we envision a world where we treat carbon as a resource and recycle it back into the products that we consume everyday. We believe this shift in thinking and how we manufacture goods has to occur in order to feed and power a world with 10 billion people in it by 2050. All of our products are manufactured using carbon dioxide. One ton of protein is produced from 2 tons of recycled carbon dioxide. For oil, the number is even better. One ton of oil recycles 6 tons of carbon dioxide. An example of an oil product that Kiverdi is developing is a sustainable alternative to palm oil. We call it PALM. And it’s better than palm oil. Since over 50 percent of consumer goods are manufactured using palm oil, including detergents, soaps, ice cream and cooking oil, the impact of our PALM product can be tremendous.
Tell us about how Kiverdi has shaken up the industry.
We partner with manufacturers of goods to identify supply chain pain points where our technology can offer a unique solution. The pain points range from the need to source a custom raw material to deliver enhanced product performance, the price volatility of a specific raw material, or the desire to profitably recycle a carbon waste stream into valuable products. We work with manufacturers to commercialize targeted solutions.
How has WeWork helped you to continue your mission and evolve?
We love WeWork and have utilized two locations to allow our team access to an environment which promotes innovation, community, and growth. WeWork has been an ideal addition to our toolbox - the accessibility with multiple locations, the perks included with being a member, and the dynamic culture we get to immerse ourselves in. It’s great!
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