Infrastructure leasing for production and processing facilities as well as capital equipment would enable alternative protein companies to rapidly expand capacity without large upfront capital investments. Having leasing funds and leasing companies with an alternative protein focus could entice corporate players who otherwise would not have considered alternative proteins to enter the space. They could also spare many smaller alternative protein startups from undertaking relatively expensive, equity-backed capital raises early in their expansion.
Events targeted at promoting opportunities in alternative protein investment via specialized funds could facilitate and diversify investment.
More alternative protein capacity—different geographies, expertise, and programming—is needed in the incubator and accelerator landscape to de-risk venture capital investment.
Corporations can build out venture capital arms—including building dedicated incubators and opening their facilities—to facilitate strategic partnerships.
Investment platforms are needed for deal flow and coordinating hand-offs from pre-seed (angels and accelerators), seed/early-stage, and growth/later-stage investors and acquirers.
Plant-based food manufacturers often struggle with batch-to-batch ingredient inconsistency and variability between suppliers. Better analytical tools for predicting plant-based ingredient performance could improve manufacturing efficiency and create more transparent ingredient markets. Tools are needed to predict how ingredients will perform after various processing methods and in end-product applications like plant-based meat and dairy.
Processing crops into flours, isolates, and concentrates often relies on chemical and mechanical methods. Biological processing techniques may impart the desired composition and molecular structure for optimal functionality with increased precision, lower cost, and greater suitability for small-scale processing. Biological processing techniques include using enzymes to fine-tune functional properties like solubility, gelling capacity, and fat- and water-binding capacity or using microbial fermentation to convert plant protein feedstocks into more functional forms.
Techno-economic models are critical for process design and cost of goods projections. Open-access models based on generalized or exemplar processes with standardized unit operations and designs can form the foundation for individual companies’ work, reducing duplicative effort. Furthermore, techno-economic models can identify key cost drivers and opportunities for process improvements to guide future research efforts. The independent research consultancy CE Delft recently published a cultivated meat techno-economic analysis. However, similar efforts are needed for fermentation-derived and plant-based meat production.
There is a need for deeper fundamental research on the relationships between protein sequence, structure, functionality, and ultimately performance in plant-based food products. While several plant-based companies have claimed a competitive advantage from building databases of functional properties and applying machine learning to inform protein selection and formulation, these capabilities remain proprietary and the efforts duplicative. An open-access database could provide functional and characterization data using standardized methods to facilitate direct performance comparisons among proteins and train predictive algorithms.