By Katherine Latham
When Michelle Ruiz's mum was diagnosed with pre-diabetes successful 2020, the Chicago-based chemic technologist acceptable retired to amended not conscionable her ain family's wellness but everyone's.
"Foods containing refined carbs [like achromatic flour] are starring drivers of chronic illnesses, including diabetes and bosom disease," says Ms Ruiz.
But flour, she says, is culturally ingrained successful our lives.
"I wanted to assistance radical bask nutrient civilization - and inactive unrecorded agelong and steadfast lives."
In 2021, she co-founded Hyfé Foods. Hyfé uses the basal web of mushrooms, called mycelium, to marque an alternate to wheat flour.
"In summation to the neutral taste, mycelium is high-protein, high-fibre, gluten-free and debased carb," says Ms Ruiz.
Producing mycelium, however, is water-intensive and costly due to the fact that of the sugars needed to provender the fungi.
To code this, Hyfé uses discarded sweetener h2o from nutrient manufacturing.
"Our extremity is to standard our exertion truthful that we tin execute terms parity, which is wherefore we usage upcycled sweetener water," says Ms Ruiz. "Up to fractional of the outgo of fermentation tin beryllium attributed to sugar, truthful upcycling tin marque a meaningful quality to the outgo of production."
Affordable alternatives to wheat are gaining attention, peculiarly aft a twelvemonth of disruption to the atom market.
The warfare successful Ukraine has highlighted our dependence connected the wheat harvests that travel from the region.
Russia and Ukraine unneurotic relationship for astir a 3rd of planetary wheat supplies. The warfare has disrupted that travel of food. In July this year, wheat prices were astir 25% higher than successful July 2021.
Record precocious nutrient prices person triggered a planetary hunger situation of unprecedented proportions.
According to the World Food Programme, the fig of radical facing acute nutrient insecurity has much than doubled successful conscionable 2 years, from 135 cardinal successful 53 countries to 345 cardinal successful 82 countries today.
On apical of that, we are starting to spot the interaction of clime change. Crops are suffering nether the effects of utmost weather.
A 2021 study from Chatham House warns that unless we drastically trim planetary emissions, by 2050 staple harvest yields could diminution by astir a third.
Harvard University scientists accidental adjacent if we bash negociate to bounds planetary warming to 2C, arsenic acceptable retired by the Paris Agreement, 60% of the world's wheat accumulation volition beryllium nether menace by the extremity of the century.
"Even earlier Ukraine, we had a breached system," says Shailaja Fennell, improvement economist astatine Cambridge University and founding subordinate of the Forgotten Crops Society.
"While we produced much than capable food, the outgo of that nutrient to the situation is already a large concern."
Prof Fennell warns that monoculture farming - increasing 1 harvest taxon successful a tract astatine a clip - is not sustainable.
"[Monoculture crops] are overmuch much susceptible to clime shocks, diseases and drought. Having a much diversified agriculture is the mode forward."
To combat nutrient insecurity immoderate countries, including China and Egypt, are ramping up home wheat production. Wheat is adjacent being planted successful the Egyptian desert.
Instead of trying to turn much wheat, Prof Fennell suggests we look to different cereals, ones that person been forgotten by the planetary proviso chain.
"There is simply a full radical of cereals called millets - small-seeded grasses akin to oats and barley - that are much hardy, usage little h2o and are gluten-free," she says.
Such alternatives, says Prof Fennell, tin person nutritional benefits implicit wheat and would beryllium of immense involvement to the pasta industry.
Pasta is simply a staple nutrient for millions of radical worldwide. It is casual to store erstwhile dried, elemental to hole and economical.
According to the International Pasta Organisation astir 17 cardinal tonnes of pasta was produced successful 2021 - much than treble the magnitude produced 20 years ago.
Durum wheat, from which pasta is typically made, is precocious yielding and provides astir 20% of each calories consumed by humans. In fact, astir two-thirds of our regular calories travel from conscionable 3 crops - wheat, atom and maize.
By 2050, the planetary colonisation is predicted to emergence to astir 10 billion, putting utmost strain connected our planet's resources.
So since determination are astir 50,000 edible works species, possibly it is clip to research our options.
In London's Covent Garden families, friends and lovers dine connected pasta nether dimmed lights, portion Italian classical euphony plays successful the background. But this is not a modular Italian restaurant, and it does not conscionable merchantability modular pasta.
In 2017, Alberto Cartasegna opened his archetypal restaurant, Miscusi, successful Milan. He wanted to connection authentic Italian pasta, portion having a affirmative interaction connected the planet.
Five years aboriginal and Miscusi present has 15 restaurants successful Italy and 2 successful the UK, and has launched its "M7 pasta" - a blend of 4 grains and 3 legumes - successful a bid to beforehand biodiversity.
"Biodiversity is killed erstwhile we attack agriculture with accepted methods similar monocropping," says Mr Cartasegna.
"M7 is made of 7 antithetic types of grains and legumes, giving our pasta a unsocial flavour, texture and colour. It's affluent successful plant-based proteins acknowledgment to the 3 legumes. All the cereals are integrated and wholegrain, keeping fibres and micronutrients to the max.
"I powerfully judge we indispensable alteration the planetary fare to prevention ourselves."
Los Angeles mother-of-two Gail Becker has besides been promoting wheat alternatives.
She became frustrated erstwhile she could not find steadfast alternatives for her sons, who some endure from coeliac disease, an autoimmune upset triggered by eating foods containing gluten.
"I tried desperately to find nutritious, gluten-free options that weren't filled with fat, sugar, brackish and calories," says Ms Becker. "I stumbled upon recipes for cauliflower crust pizza.
"My instauration tasted fine, but it looked awful, my room was a catastrophe and I had spent 90 minutes I didn't have, arsenic a mum with a full-time job, making a pizza crust! I realised I astir apt wasn't alone. So I near my occupation to onslaught retired connected my ain and make Caulipower."
Caulipower, established successful 2016, has since expanded beyond pizza crusts to connection frozen cauliflower pastas. Its products tin present beryllium recovered successful much than 25,000 stores crossed the US.
"Consumers privation nutritional food," says Ms Becker. "They nary longer expect to person to take betwixt sensation and health, and frankly they shouldn't person to."
Back successful Chicago, Hyfé is engaged cultivating mycelium and turning it into carbon-neutral, healthy, affordable pasta.
"We're creating a caller staple crop," says Ms Ruiz. "One that tin beryllium grown astir anyplace successful the world, giving countries accrued nutrient sovereignty, and employing circular exertion for a much resilient nutrient system.
"Our pasta is not conscionable amended for you, it's amended for the planet."