Could yeast make cannabis greenhouses obsolete?

Unlike other modern high growth industries, the pot business doesn’t require a doctorate in science, or even a college degree. Much of the economic hype which surrounds the industry depends on it remaining an agricultural product. But it might not always be that way.

In September, the Boston-based Ginkgo Bioworks, which calls itself “the organism company”, landed a deal worth approximately $100m with Cronos Group, one of Canada’s most prominent cannabis companies. Ginkgo promises to produce the active ingredients in marijuana from genetically modified microorganisms, such as yeast. The company says its process, which draws on the field of synthetic biology, will produce a far greater array of valuable compounds at greater purity and for less money than marijuana plants can.

In brewing beer, yeast functions essentially as a factory, converting sugar into alcohol. Ginkgo plans to modify the DNA of yeast (or another microorganism) so its enzymes convert a “soup” of sugar, vitamins, nitrogen and other ingredients into THC, CBD and other chemicals found in marijuana. Instead of growing on farms, the chemicals will be produced in giant metal vats, like the ones at breweries.

Read more at The Guardian (Alex Halperin)


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