Investing with purpose: cooking up purpose with Zero Acre Farms

Holly Branson cooking with Zero Acre Farms' Cultured Oils on Moskito Island
Kami White
Holly Branson
Holly Branson's writing
Published on 26 July 2022

Zero Acre Farms is showing the world what is possible  when purpose, science and entrepreneurship combine. The start-up is on a mission to give the world an oil change by replacing vegetable oils with healthier, more sustainable alternatives. Vegetable oils are the most consumed food in the world after rice and wheat, which is deeply concerning when you see how destructive they are to the planet and our health. Horrifyingly, they also increase our risk of death by 62% - more than heavy drinking or moderate smoking - and they can be found in pretty much everything we eat.

Led by the brilliant Jeff Nobbs, Zero Acre Farms has just launched its very first product, called Cultured Oil, which is made by fermentation (instead of deforestation) and can be used in exactly the same way as vegetable oils - which is why we decided to invest in the company! 

The team let me sample the oil before it hit the market, and one of our brilliant Virgin Limited Edition chefs (Ian Boucher) whipped up a feast with it! I couldn’t believe how well it handled the heat, and how delicious the dishes tasted. Ian was so excited by the product, which made me even more convinced that Zero Acre Farms really are on to something with this innovative, healthy product. This really is the direction that we need to head in to protect both our health as humans and the health of our beautiful planet.

Testing out Zero Acre Farms Cultured Oils in the kitchen

After testing it out in the kitchen, I spoke to Zero Acre Farms’ CEO, Jeff Nobbs, about the enormity of problem with vegetable oils, and how innovations like Cultured Oils can really scale-up and tackle the issue.

Investing with Purpose: Zero Acre Farms

As Jeff said: 

“Globally there’s about 200 million metric tonnes of vegetable oil that’s produced every year, so we have a lot of catching up to do. But we’re already at the commercial scale with Cultured Oils… It’s already in the neighbourhood price range and it’s already been scaled up commercially. We’ve just got to keep getting the word out.” 

It’s incredible to realise that if just 5% of vegetable oils in the US were replaced with Cultured Oil, we could save… 

It’s incredible to realise that if just 5% of vegetable oils in the US were replaced with Cultured Oil, we could save…

  • 5.1 billion square ft of biodiverse rainforest.

  • Over 50 billion gallons of fresh water.

  • 3.6 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent emissions.

Beyond the environmental impact, vegetable oils also cause serious health problems – with links to chronic disease such as heart disease. As Jeff said:

“In the case of vegetable oils, the fats [they contain] are correlated with all sorts of negative health issues, and vegetable oils are the one food in our diets that have increased in line with increasing rates of chronic disease.”

Jeff then explained how Cultured Oil is a much healthier alternative as it has significantly lower levels of these unhealthy fats than vegetable oils. Indeed, Zero Acre Farms’ Cultured Oil has more healthy and heat-stable fats than olive oil!

I noticed this first-hand when Ian and I cooked with the Zero Acre Farms oil. It had such a high smoking point, and Ian excitedly explained to me how this means it is producing significantly less harmful, toxic compounds. Freddie does most of the cooking at home so this really amazed me!

I’m so excited to see Zero Acre Farms’ very first product hit the market and usher in a new era of cooking oils. Thank you so much to both Ian and Jeff for demonstrating just how impactful this will be for both human health and for the planet. Congratulations Zero Acre Farms. I’m so excited to be part of his journey.