7 Insights From Kiverdi CEO Lisa Dyson

I sat down (virtually) with NFS 2016 alum Lisa Dyson for a heady and enlightening micro-interview. Read on for Lisa’s thoughts on the future of protein, the nexus of scientific and business thinking, and more:

Zem Joaquin: What does being a Near Futurist mean to you?

Lisa Dyson: To be a Near Futurist means that one is constantly at the intersection of vision and execution. At Kiverdi, we have a big vision to produce protein in a way that is both sustainable and scalable. In order to deliver on our objective to help to feed and power a world of 10 billion people by 2050, we have zoomed in on our focus to bring to market a nutritious protein that uses significantly less land and less water than alternatives.

Zem: How did you first become interested in harnessing the power of carbon recycling?

Lisa: A few years ago, a colleague of mine, Dr. John Reed, and I were interested in coming up with technologies that could address climate change. We wanted to figure out if we could create a technology that could reduce carbon dioxide in our atmosphere. We thought that making carbon recycling profitable was a way to make it attractive to companies. During our research, we discovered NASA technical reports from the 1960’s and 1970’s where they outlined ways to recycle carbon dioxide into food using microbes. We realized that converting carbon dioxide into products using the NASA-type process could be the answer.

“To be a Near Futurist means that one is constantly at the intersection of vision and execution.”

Zem: How did you and your team at Kiverdi make the leap from seeing this niche solution to using the same principles to solve problems at a global scale?

Lisa: We thought that since Earth is like a spaceship — we have limited resources and limited space, and we need to figure out how to recycle carbon to sustain life — we might be able to apply some of NASA’s concepts to address our carbon problem. The idea was to cultivate these NASA-type microbes as a way of capturing and recycling carbon dioxide. Microbes are already used to make food — yogurt, cheese, bread and beer. We decided to take it one step further. We are using microbes to make protein. This is important because the livestock industry is one of the largest emitters of greenhouse gases on the planet, emitting more greenhouse gases than our cars, planes, trains and trucks combined. And, there is a protein bubble emerging. In the next few decades, it is estimated that we will have to almost double protein production to meet the growing demand. We need to figure out how to do this in a way that uses less land and less water.

Not only is the protein that we make nutritious, having all of the essential amino acids plus vitamins and minerals, but the production process requires 2000 times less water and utilizes up to 10,000 times less land than, for instance, soy protein production.

“The scientific method is applicable not only to science, but also to business.”

Zem: How would you describe your problem-solving process?

Lisa: The scientific method is applicable not only to science, but also to business. Throughout my career, and most-notably during my time at the Boston Consultant Group, I discovered that it can be thoroughly effective and applicable to almost any situation. One frames the problem, forms a hypothesis, gathers data and tests the hypothesis, modifies the hypothesis based on the data, then repeats. With this iterative process, solutions can be found.

Zem: What of Kiverdi’s many products and endeavors are you most excited to see take shape and scale up over the next five to ten years?

Lisa: The world needs more protein. I am excited to see our nutritious protein scale to one day be one of the most sustainable protein options on the shelf. A sustainable protein alternative is essential to meet the demands of an expanding population that will soon reach 10 billion. Our goal at Kiverdi is to provide healthy vegan alternatives, with attractive flavor profiles, to meat, eggs, milk, etc.

Zem: What was the most stimulating idea/partnership/connection that came out of your Near Future experience?

Lisa: I thoroughly enjoyed participating in the session called “The Future of Protein.” The session presented alternative future scenarios based on what choices we make about how we will source protein. It included perspectives from an incredible group of visionaries and innovators. I enjoyed the thought-provoking discussions about how we can and will create the future.

Zem: What is something totally new and unexpected that you learned at Near Future?

Lisa: The Near Future Summit provided a pool of extraordinary minds to engage, inquire, and relish. My conversations spanned from recycling resources on earth to examining the fantastic potential of the future. The capsule titled “Reimagining Resources” resonated with my passions, as our need to architect dynamic ways of recycling is paramount. I enjoyed learning more about and hearing from visions of fellow entrepreneurs who are on their own quest to deliver a future of abundance.