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How I Built This with Guy Raz / – Saving the f#$%ing rainforests with Shara Ticku of C16 Biosciences

How I Built This with Guy Raz – Saving the f#$%ing rainforests with Shara Ticku of C16 Biosciences

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In this episode of “How I Built This with Guy Raz,” Guy interviews Shara Ticku, the co-founder of C16 Biosciences. Shara shares her journey of creating a sustainable alternative to palm oil, a highly versatile ingredient found in over 50% of products on supermarket shelves. The destructive nature of palm oil production, which involves burning rainforests, inspired Shara to find a solution. Through bio-manufacturing and the use of microorganisms, C16 Biosciences has developed a palm oil alternative called Palmless. Join Guy as he explores Shara’s entrepreneurial journey and the potential impact of C16 Biosciences on the palm oil industry.

Main Takeaways

The Destructive Nature of Palm Oil Production

  • Palm oil is in over 50% of products on supermarket shelves due to its versatility as an ingredient.
  • The way palm oil is harvested today is incredibly destructive to the planet, as rainforests are burned down to make way for more palm oil plantations, making the air toxic for entire countries.
  • Changes in land use in Indonesia and Malaysia to create more palm oil plantations resulted in more CO2 emissions than the entire global aviation sector.

C16 Biosciences: Creating a Sustainable Alternative

  • C16 Biosciences is a company producing a palm oil alternative to combat the destructive nature of palm oil production.
  • The company used microorganisms like yeast and algae to create a synthetic alternative to palm oil.
  • Their product, Palmless, looks and functions like palm oil but is produced using bio-manufacturing instead of agriculture.

The Impact of Palm Oil on Health and Indigenous Communities

  • The tangible cost on the health of people in Singapore due to palm oil harvesting demonstrates the need for a sustainable alternative.
  • The palm oil industry has led to the destruction of rainforests, displacement of indigenous communities, and harm to air and water quality.

The Journey of C16 Biosciences

  • C16 Biosciences started with only $1,000 and did early trials in basements and kitchens.
  • The company discovered a yeast that could naturally produce the desired oil, eliminating the need for genetic modification.
  • They have raised $24 million and are already gross margin positive in the beauty industry.


Revolutionizing Palm Oil Production through Innovation

Shara Ticku, co-founder of C16 Biosciences, recognized the destructive nature of palm oil production and set out to find a sustainable alternative. Palm oil, found in over 50% of products on supermarket shelves, is responsible for deforestation, CO2 emissions, and harm to indigenous communities. C16 Biosciences developed Palmless, a palm oil alternative created through bio-manufacturing using microorganisms like yeast and algae. The company’s journey started with limited resources but has since raised significant funding and achieved positive margins in the beauty industry. By offering a better alternative to palm oil, C16 Biosciences aims to transform the palm oil industry into a more sustainable and eco-friendly venture.

Challenges and Opportunities in the Palm Oil Market

The palm oil market presents both challenges and opportunities. Legislation requires companies to verify that their palm oil doesn’t come from deforested land, and retailers like Walmart and Whole Foods are holding their suppliers accountable. However, the palm oil supply chain remains complex, making it difficult to confirm sustainable practices. C16 Biosciences aims to serve large consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies, which account for the majority of palm oil consumption. With the ability to customize their oil profile, C16 Biosciences can create new products that outperform existing vegetable oils. The company believes that innovation and a for-profit approach are key to solving the palm oil problem.


C16 Biosciences, led by co-founder Shara Ticku, is revolutionizing the palm oil industry through innovation and sustainability. By offering a palm oil alternative created through bio-manufacturing, the company aims to reduce deforestation, CO2 emissions, and harm to indigenous communities. With their focus on serving large CPG companies and their ability to customize oil profiles for specific needs, C16 Biosciences has the potential to make a significant impact on the palm oil market. Through their entrepreneurial journey, they demonstrate the power of for-profit innovation in solving environmental challenges.

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