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Blending Wisdom With Tech

Feb/05/2023 / by Pratika Yashaswi

Priyanka Srinivas uses the past and the present to ensure everyone a sustainable future

Priyanka Srinivas
Priyanka Srinivas

Sustainable living is in Priyanka Srinivas’ blood. Born and raised in Hyderabad, India, she grew up watching her mother reuse utensils and plastic bags until they were worn out, and use rags from old clothes for cleaning.

As an adult, she worked for big retailers in the food industry, where she learned a sobering lesson: many market-dominating products that claim to be “green” and “healthy” are often green-washed.

“I felt like I was being cheated,” Srinivas says. “Like many people, I wished the industry would provide well-thought-out solutions instead of expecting consumers to take responsibility for their choices.”

She got thinking about what she could do to improve the food industry for health-conscious consumers and found her answers in two things: ancestral wisdom and technology. She united the two, and thus was born The Live Green Co., which uses sophisticated technology that’s scalable worldwide to make healthy and environmentally sustainable food.

SEEMA chatted with Srinivas to learn more about this Chile-based entrepreneur.

Why food tech?

Let’s face it, the world’s future relies on our ability to tackle the climate crisis. Unfortunately, the food industry (particularly animal-based food production) is one of the biggest emitters of carbon dioxide. Together with the increasing urban population, food insecurity is on the rise and becoming a major global concern. So, to overcome its state of crisis, we need large-scale solutions that are applicable worldwide. We need to make better, healthier food that we love with minimal resources.

And this is where technology comes into play. There’s currently no better tool to enable disruptive change to an entire industry than technology, particularly AI. And as I want to create a positive difference in the sector while promoting a cleaner, healthier lifestyle for our generation, building a food tech startup focused on scalable, healthy nutrition was a natural step for me.

Today, our tech company, The Live Green Co., fosters the next plant food revolution. We go beyond offering plant-based alternatives to meats, eggs, and milk. We can additionally replace all the additives and ultra-processed ingredients to generate 100% clean, functional, sustainable plant-only foods, pharmaceuticals, supplements, and more. All with the help of an AI-driven tech platform that is able to analyze an endless amount of data points and create new solutions.

This is where my personal story and experiences as a child meet with my pursuit of disruptive technology and achieving the greatest possible impact. This unique opportunity – to do something extraordinary and big – is, for me, the answer to the question of why food tech.

Have you always lived in Chile or did you move there recently? What’s it like running a business out of Chile?

I came to Chile about four years ago to take part in Start-Up Chile’s program, a leading accelerator in Latin America, and one of the best worldwide. We found Chile to be an excellent pilot market to test our products and market approach, learn and iterate. Moreover, Chile has free trade agreements with many countries and excellent public programs to help entrepreneurs develop their ventures. The vibrant startup ecosystem allowed us to build close ties and professional networks with great local and international partners.

Chile taught me a different language and a new culture. Its welcoming nature helped me quickly develop solid networks and relationships, which then brought in high-end investors from the US. My team in Chile and my partners in Southeast Asia and the U.S. are a diverse and impressive team. Since our successful start in the country, we have opened up to new markets and business opportunities in other Latin American countries. Lately, we opened new [offices] in Boston and Singapore.

You’ve talked about how ancient wisdom and modern technology aren’t mutually exclusive. This view forms much of the work you do today. How does this translate into your AI software, Charaka?

Nature has more than 450,000 plants, 10 million components, and a billion (if not endless) data points to analyze. Our proprietary technology, Charaka, helps us replace animal-based, synthetic, processed, unsustainable, and unhealthy ingredients with natural ones in all sorts of products, ranging from food to pharmaceuticals, supplements, and more.

Charaka develops a database of plant food properties. Our technology manages to study taste, texture, functionality, local availability, and even sustainability aspects and store complete profiles. In addition, we recently launched our new technology division, precision fermentation, which allows us to also analyze and incorporate sustainable proteins.

Our mission is to leverage ancient wisdom and the power of tech to formulate products. This synergy between technology and human knowledge is not just valid for food production. We’ve seen how virtual slime molds can help build smarter public transportation networks or even the infrastructure of entire cities. It’s going so far as to use AI to penetrate a world long closed to humans: understanding the language of animals and plants.

Technology is the most important tool to create change on a large scale. Our ancestors’ knowledge and nature itself give us the basics, the input, on how this change should come about. Whether it’s to transition the world to healthy and sustainable food, or to address other big problems like climate change.

How have people responded to the products using your technology?

We’re really grateful that the response has been overwhelmingly positive! We are working on licensing our recommendation engine to food manufacturers and pharma companies around the world. We see our company as the Intel Inside of the food industry. It connects different brands and manufacturers, enabling them to be more efficient, sustainable, and create large-scale global impact. We’ve partnered with major food manufacturers, distributors and pharmaceutical companies, like Ariztia, Carozzi, Sigma Alimentos, Starbucks and Duopharma Biotech. This way, we expand our reach and develop more clean-label products sans the animal components, additives, and harsh chemicals.

For the latter, we’ve been helping develop plant-only pharmaceutical products to cater to patients with dietary requirements. Our collaboration with Duopharma also helps the pharma giant. It accomplishes its ESG commitment to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030, and net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

What’s your advice for people who are looking to make more environmentally friendly choices in their kitchens? What are some super-easy first steps?

Small steps can lead to significant changes. There is no such thing as too little or too late. From reusing plastic cutlery to making a change in your diet, like reducing animal-based foods, every small step leads to a more sustainable future.

I encourage people to begin the food and health revolution by reading food labels when grocery shopping. While this is easy when buying vegetables or fruits, we have difficulties differentiating the many ready-to-eat products on supermarket shelves. When reading the labels, look for products that contain whole foods like fruits, legumes, and grains.

The plant-based, and especially plant-only products, I can recommend will have indicating labels like “zero cholesterol,” “additive-free,” or “clean-label,” which makes it much easier. And this is where we as consumers actually have the most power. As I said, most brands push the responsibility onto the consumer. Let’s show them that we demand healthier products with our purchasing power!

What new stuff is coming up from The Live Green Co?

In Chile, we recently launched a brand new campaign, El Futuro es Chile, to introduce millennials and Gen Z consumers to our products. We worked with local talent to develop all the graphics and concepts. We are very proud of this campaign. It allows us to encourage young consumers to be part of our plant-only revolution, eating healthier and more sustainable food. All this, while also emphasizing the need to change how we consume the Earth’s natural resources.

Likewise, we are enjoying steady growth across other markets. We are working with more partners globally to develop white-label products, product premixes, ingredients, and to license formulations developed by Charaka to expand the reach of what we can achieve with our technology.

Is there anything else you’d like to mention that I haven’t asked about yet?

I am very grateful for the opportunities that have come to me from the early stages at The Live Green Co. It’s inspiring to see the support both our business and our mission have gotten in the last years. The desire to promote a healthier, more sustainable future for everyone shows that, regardless of our backgrounds, there’s common ground.

It’s inspiring to be a female founder from South Asia leading our company to growth across multiple markets globally. I am proud to show my younger self, who so fondly remembers my mom cooking in our home kitchen and felt inspired by her naturally sustainable way of tackling life, that I can empower other women entrepreneurs to pursue something big. Together, we can change the world.

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