Paul Lightfoot on how carbon negative foods are taking off and why now

Paul Lightfoot is the writer of the Negative Foods newsletter, which covers the foods that have carbon neutral or carbon negative footprints, and the technologies, people and companies that bring negative foods to market, food brands that have carbon negative footprints. Paul is the founder of BrightFarms and an investor in the space. 


What are negative foods? How do we decrease the carbon net of food to zero? Why is now the critical moment to focus on this? What is the crucial role of startup food companies in the regenerative agriculture transition? Why should companies start carbon labeling?

Unpacking ‘Negative Foods’ 

A third of the world’s carbon emissions comes from food alone. Hence, it will have a great impact on climate change if we can decrease the carbon net of food to zero, and this is where the idea of ‘negative food’ comes up. Food is unique in a way that while it is a terrible carbon emitter, it also has the greatest potential to remove carbon with the utilization of regenerative agricultural processes. While it’s simply not possible for energy to have negative emissions, it is for food. Here’s the best part: negative foods mean better foods. 

“I think that there will be a cheerful tidal wave of startups based on regenerative agricultural supply chains. These will be food brands that have much better carbon footprints, they’ll have better other things as well, like nutritional density, they’ll taste better.” – Paul Lightfoot 

But Why Now? 

The future of the food industry is geared towards regeneration. Companies, investors, and consumers are much more aware of the need to solve the problem of our current food system. It’s now a problem that can no longer be ignored, so many are turning to food that is better not only for people’s health (i.e. with more nutrients), but better for the planet (i.e. with the least carbon footprint). Consumers are willing to pay higher prices too. In fact, if we are to look at the consumer demand for food with regenerative supply chains, we will see that the demand outdistances the supply. 

“When that demand is there, particularly if we can get higher price points, that demand will drive farmers on their own to find the solutions to get there.

Role of Startups 

Now it is undoubtedly the best time for startups as investors, acquirers, retailers, and consumers’ eyes are on small companies advocating sustainable practices such as being transparent of their carbon footprint. The demand for carbon-negative or neutral footprints food will only increase over time, and small sustainable companies are bound to overshadow the non-regenerative conglomerates. These giants will have no choice but to step up or they will lose their consumers. If this cycle continues, the food industry will completely transform and negative food will eventually become a norm. 

“The transition of the world’s economy from where it is to where it’s going to be is going to be a chance to lose or win money based on whether you can adapt or not.” – Paul Lightfoot

 Negative or Neutral 

Because of consumers’ growing awareness, carbon labeling has also become a thing. Hence, for Paul, products that can have lower costs by being carbon negative may be a great direction for those wanting to invest in the space. It may also be a smart move to think of products that are most vulnerable to climate (i.e. not investing in water-dependent plants in areas that may have water shortage). Lastly, there are possible opportunities as well in finding the delta between the worst products and the most promising products in terms of carbon footprints. 

“If you’re not talking about your emissions, you’re not measuring them, you’re not managing them. On the other hand, I actually think that transparency is like a fundamental value that most good companies have.” – Paul Lightfoot

Other Points Discussed 

Koen and Paul also talked about the following: 

  • Putting a price on pollution, such as taxing carbon;
  • Ending the current subsidies in the United States for both beef and dairy;
  • Ending the ethanol requirements for gasoline as it is a waste of resources; 
  • Establishing outcome-based and scientific standards and definitions;
  • Does exponential fit food companies?;
  • Consumer demand will continue to rise big time for foods with carbon negative or neutral footprints.

To know more about Paul Lightfoot and BrightFarms, download and listen to this episode. 




Feedback, comments, suggestions? Reach me via Twitter @KoenvanSeijen, in the comments below or through Get in Touch on this website.

Join the Investing in Regenerative Agriculture and Food newsletter on

The above references an opinion and is for information and educational purposes only. It is not intended to be investment advice. Seek a duly licensed professional for investment advice.

Join the Community

1 comment on “Paul Lightfoot on how carbon negative foods are taking off and why now

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *