The GFI ‘State of the Science’ series is a triannual snapshot of the alt protein science ecosystem, including noteworthy funding announcements, technological advancements, and updates on the growth of the talent streams leading into this field.
May through August
The summertime is all about warm weather and tropical vacations for many, but alt protein scientists were busy revolutionizing the way meat is made in the last several months. And the larger alt protein ecosystem rallied behind them with the funding and partnerships needed to scale their research.
Funders step up
In fact, we are beginning to see more governments step up to feed the funding demand for open-access alt protein research.
- On June 29th, Israel’s Ministry of Innovation, Science, and Technology—along with the Ministry of Agriculture and GFI Israel—released a call for alternative protein research that will fund 14 research projects over two years amounting to a little over USD$1MM total in funding.
- A California budget bill signed on June 30th will direct $5 million over the next year to advance alternative protein research at three University of California campuses. This is the largest single investment in alternative protein R&D of any U.S. state and the first-ever state investment in cultivated meat research.
- And on August 30th, Israel-based cultivated meat startup Aleph Farms announced they would be leading a $40MM innovation sprint in cellular agriculture R&D over the next five years in collaboration with several investor groups. Their recognition as an Innovation Sprint Partner of the Agriculture Innovation Mission for Climate (AIM for Climate) signals acknowledgement of cell ag as one solution to climate and food security issues.
Alt protein collaboration grows
Strategic partnerships across industry, academia, and other organizations are also strong enablers of the scientific advances we see in plant-based food innovations. A few exciting and strong collaborations were established this summer.
- Givaudan, Buhler, and Cargill are jointly opening a Tropical Food Innovation Lab in Campinas, Brazil on the Food Technology Institute’s premises. The lab is slated to open early 2023 and will be approx. 1000 sq. feet. This collaborative lab will explore Brazil’s rich plant biodiversity and include wet and dry alternative protein extrusion systems. This innovation lab announcement follows another collaboration with Givaudan and Buhler with the opening of their Protein Innovation Centre in Singapore last year.
- Waters Corp., a leading analytical instrumentation company, partnered with the Plant Protein Innovation Center (PPIC) to provide technology and expertise to enhance understanding of plant-derived amino acids and drive development of new protein sources.
- ADM and Benson Hill announced a partnership in which ingredient company ADM will scale up breeding company Benson Hill’s ultra-high protein soybeans to produce soy protein ingredients at scale, with products expected to launch in early 2023. This announcement follows an announcement earlier this year that Benson Hill and Kellogg plan to partner for their ultra-high protein soy ingredient to be used in plant-based MorningStar products. Ultra-high protein soybean are preferred for plant-based meats as the protein ingredient is easier to extract, requiring less processing while retaining better protein quality.
Researchers innovate plant-based seafood flavor
Seafood flavor seemed to be on everyone’s tongues this summer! A particularly compelling development is a new paper from a multi-institutional team out of Belgium and the Netherlands that describes screening several microalgae species as potential flavoring ingredients for plant-based seafood.
The researchers used quantitative descriptive sensory analysis to compare eight species of microalgae for their fishy, mussel-like, and crab-like aroma and taste characteristics as well as several other desirable and undesirable flavor characteristics. The team identified three microalgae species that seemed especially promising and that outperformed the five species of macroalgae tested on many of the analyzed metrics.
At GFI, we were excited to receive some truly excellent research proposals around one of our priority topics—the creation of flavor components for alternative seafood. We’ve offered funding to several talented teams, and we’re “urchin” to share the details of those projects with you in early 2023.
Science anywhere changes meat everywhere
The last four months have been brimming with exciting advancements in both alt protein science and the larger ecosystem. Luckily GFI’s SciTech team is here to give you all the details you may have missed.