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.
The alternative protein industry has a significant need for workers and innovators with specialized knowledge spanning multiple traditional disciplines. However, since few universities offer alternative protein majors or dedicated subject matter, most alternative protein knowledge has to be learned on the job. The alternative protein industry needs educational programming that can cover the depth and complexity of knowledge, experience, and skills required within the context of traditional academic institutions as well as post-graduate professional development and training opportunities.
Fat and moisture retention are critical to the organoleptic properties of meat and must be perfected across all alternative protein platforms. Solutions for encapsulating fat and moisture are necessary to ensure that these components are protected from damage or loss throughout manufacturing, storage, cooking, and mastication.
Directories of contract manufacturers for plant-based production, fermentation, and animal cell culture
The alt protein industry would benefit from better open-access directories of co-manufacturers interested in producing alternative proteins, including more detail on their equipment and capabilities.
Dedicated brokers, consultants, directories, and other matching mechanisms could help connect alternative protein companies to engineering/design/construction firms with relevant experience and interest in the alternative protein sector.
An alternative protein data lake could contain anonymized data from processing runs across many manufacturers, informing processing improvements and aiding process failure troubleshooting.
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.
After identifying specific target molecules or desired functionalities in animal-derived foods, scientists can work backward, mining microbial sequences for candidate molecules in the microbial realm that might provide similar functionality. This process can also elucidate the pathways that produce these molecules and inform strategies for designing microbial strains that produce these molecules at scale.