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Kimberlie Le: Getting to the Root of a Sustainable Food System

Kimberlie Le: Getting to the Root of a Sustainable Food System

Hi everyone, I’m Spiffy, the interplanetary journalist reporting from Planet Earth with an eye on entrepreneurs making a difference on climate change. Today it is my pleasure to be talking to Kimberlie Le of Prime Roots

Spiffy: Welcome Kim! There are so many issues related to climate change. What issue have you honed in on?

Kim: It’s great to be here, Spiffy. To put it bluntly, we are finding solutions to help repair a broken food system that is killing our environment. We are working to create beautiful and tasty alternative proteins, using the fermentation process to create quality sustainable food.

Spiffy: Wow. I didn’t realize the food system was so broken! Can you tell me more about that and what motivated you to create alternative proteins?

Kim: Well, for a vast majority of my life, I was really oblivious to how broken the food system was. I was actually born and bred in the food industry. Initially, I wanted to go as far away as possible from the food industry. But over the course of my life, three things really impacted me. That was learning that 15-20% of greenhouse gas emissions come from animal agriculture, learning how inefficient the food system is, and learning how my food choices have a big impact on that system. I decided that I wanted to tackle food production and use microbiology as a way to make food more sustainable. Food waste is a HUGE concern and cutting out meat is one of the single biggest impacts you can make to help the environment.

Spiffy: That seems like a manageable way to reduce our negative impact on the Earth. How is this going to make the world more equitable?

Kim: For us at Prime Roots, it's about democratizing food and giving people the power to help us co-create and help us make products. That community aspect is really important to us.

Spiffy: That is exciting! That could inspire a lot of future entrepreneurs and food inventors! Is there any new milestone you’re excited to report on?

Kim: Actually, Spiffy, we partnered with Whole Foods to sell Prime Roots products and our product is now available online.

Spiffy: It seems like your success has been quite swift. Have you ever experienced failure?

Kim: We don't think about things as "failures" – everything is a learning experience. That said, we've definitely had setbacks.

Spiffy: Really, like what?

Kim: Well, the Coronavirus required us to adapt really quickly. We had to transition part of the team to work remotely, and the way we hire and scale our work has been adjusted too.

Spiffy: Adjustments seem to be the word of the year. I believe we are all in the process of learning. It sounds like you work that way too. 

Kim: I do! You know, this year has been a huge learning curve in terms of creating a sense of stability in unstable times. My dog Chuy is actually what sparked this learning – which I later felt compelled to apply to my staff. The sense of stability Chuy gives me, the routine and support, it’s so unwavering and comforting. I wanted to find a way to make my team at Prime Roots feel the same way when they come to work in these uncertain times.

Spiffy: Our furry friends are teaching us a lot of things these days! I’m glad to see how Chuy is having a ripple effect on your company.  I imagine I’ll see the ripple effect of Prime Roots on our food system for years to come! Thank you, Kim, for taking the time to speak with me. It’s been a pleasure!


Prime Roots was born out of UC Berkeley's Alternative Meat Lab where Co-Founder Kim Le conducted exploratory research. Gathering data from the community on issues related to our food system, Kim quickly realized that the current food system is broken. Kim started to experiment by growing koji in an Instant Pot in her apartment, and Prime Roots was born as a solution to our broken food system and the creation of alternative meats. (Nominated by Indiebio|SOSV)