What is the Alt Protein Project?
The Alt Protein Project is a global student movement dedicated to turning universities into engines for alternative protein education, research, and innovation. Students are the driving force behind the Alt Protein Project (Alt.Pro), which is building momentum at universities around the world.
While students are excited to join the alternative protein field — which has seen tremendous growth in the past decade — they aren’t always aware of the critical role they play in defining the trajectory of our food system from within the university.
Students are the catalysts who can shape university priorities. From driving scientific inquiry that improves the sensory and functional qualities of new protein products to creating educational programs and establishing a talent pipeline for a growing industry, universities will be a cornerstone of the alternative protein ecosystem.
The Good Food Institute established the Alt Protein Project so that motivated, visionary students could lead their universities to transform the way we produce food — creating a system that is sustainable, secure, and just.
Alt.Pro connects and empowers students
The Alt Protein Project is a nexus for the academic efforts fundamental to building the alternative protein movement. The project is all about creating connections — between tissue engineers and food scientists, entrepreneurial business students and technical innovators, principal investigators and the next generation of research talent.
Most importantly, the Alt Protein Project connects members with the right ideas, questions, and opportunities that will help accelerate a global transition. The result is a network of academic institutions that prioritize plant-based, cultivated, and fermentation-enabled protein. This network helps provide this growing alt protein sector with the institutional resources and human ingenuity it needs to scale and feed the world sustainably.
What are alternative proteins?
GFI defines alternative proteins as meat, egg, or dairy products that are plant-based, cultivated, or fermentation-derived. We envision a food system that provides people with the foods they love — produced without conventional animal agriculture.
Learn about the science of plant-based meat. Discover resources and research on the latest technological developments and key scientific questions.
Learn about the science of cultivated meat and the challenges that must be addressed for commercial production.
Learn about the emerging role of microbial fermentation in building the next generation of alternative protein products.
What do Alt Protein Project groups do?
The Alt Protein Project is much more than a social group. It provides students and researchers with an interdisciplinary community in which to explore the alternative protein-related applications of their academic expertise. At each host institution, student leaders work with GFI experts to determine what actions will have the biggest impact on growing their own school’s alternative protein ecosystem.
Some groups have chosen to design course materials and advocate for alternative protein curriculum development; to meet with principal investigators and other scientists to catalyze alternative protein-enabling research; to launch innovation competitions to support student entrepreneurship; and much more. AltPro groups are social hubs, too, where passionate, like-minded students can find one another through journal clubs and plant-based meat tastings—that’s part of what gives rise to the Alt Protein Project’s most exciting emergent properties.
Should you start an Alt Protein Project student group?
As a student, you have incredible power to drive change at your universities. You can build an interdisciplinary network of peers, explore high-priority research questions related to alternative protein, and demonstrate demand for new curriculum and engagement opportunities.
We’re looking for Alt.Pro student leaders at research universities that have the foundations for a long-lasting alternative protein ecosystem. This could mean universities:
- Where students believe they can energize the academic community around the science, engineering, production, and commercialization of alternative proteins.
- Located in a region with established agtech, biotech, or manufacturing capabilities.
- With strong programs in any of the many sciences that enable alternative protein innovation—tissue engineering, fermentation science, and plant biology, to name just a few.
Do you have what it takes to bring the Alt Protein Project to your school? Our student guide will walk you through the key responsibilities and opportunities associated with running a student group. If you’re feeling energized to start building your own community, we’d love to hear from you!
How will GFI support you?
GFI connects alternative protein scientists, entrepreneurs, and other innovators across the world. We tap into our network to showcase and amplify the impact of our student groups. In addition to maintaining a collection of resources for students, GFI works closely with members of the Alt Protein Project to provide strategic mentorship, guidance, and ad hoc support. Alt Protein Project members have access to a Slack workspace where GFI staff answer questions and stimulate innovative discussions. And, of course, student leaders in the workspace support one another and celebrate shared successes!
Once a month, GFI hosts a student leader call that serves as a forum for connecting our global community. These calls include roundtables, training from alternative protein experts, collaborative problem-solving sessions, and networking activities. Each active student group is also eligible for a modest student group stipend to support group projects and activities, in addition to the funds student groups can raise independently. Additionally, GFI will work with student leaders to help amplify news about AltPro group events, campaigns, and other public-facing projects across our network.
Learn about core objectives
Objective 1: Building alternative protein courses and majors
One of the largest bottlenecks in the alternative protein field is the relative lack of scientists and engineers who can advance plant-based, cultivated, and fermentation-enabled meat, egg, and dairy products. The Alt Protein Project works to create and support alternative protein courses, tracks, and programs. Student leaders work with GFI experts and university faculty to design course materials and advocate for curriculum development.
Objective 2: Expanding open-access research
The alternative protein field needs more scientists driving open-access academic research for better alternatives to conventional meat, egg, and dairy products. Student leaders play a pivotal role in catalyzing open access research by inspiring academic collaborations, designing research proposals, laying the foundation for research centers and consortia, keeping labs abreast of new funding opportunities, and pursuing their own lines of scientific inquiry.
Objective 3: Stimulating entrepreneurship
The Alt Protein Project empowers student entrepreneurs to start alternative protein companies that address key white space questions whose solutions will help propel the industry forward. Students can do this in a myriad of ways—by working with alternative protein experts to analyze white space opportunities and develop product prototypes, mobilizing their peers through regional innovation challenges, building alternative protein tracks in student accelerators, and more!
Objective 4: Building awareness and excitement
The Alt Protein Project organizes events and conferences to stimulate discussion, cultivate new ideas, and get people excited about opportunities in alternative proteins. Generating enthusiasm on campus means that more students can take advantage of the university environment to explore alternative protein white spaces, both within and beyond the Alt Protein Project.
Objective 5: Creating an inspiring, inclusive community
The Alt Protein Project provides students and researchers with a fun, fulfilling, and inclusive community in which to explore questions and opportunities around alternative proteins. AltPro groups welcome a diverse and interdisciplinary membership to spur novel thinking, break down academic silos, and foster collaboration.
Student group guide
GFI’s student group guide is a resource hub for student leaders looking to spark the alternative protein revolution on campus. If you’re a student curious about starting your own Alt Protein Project community or you’re an active student leader looking for guidance, dive into our student group guide to learn more. Check out other resources for student movement-builders below.
Check out related resources
This guide will help you steer through the exciting world of alternative proteins.
Learn how to make a career and find open positions in the exciting field of alternative proteins.
Explore startup ideas, commercial opportunities, research projects, and investment priorities throughout the alternative protein supply chain.
Use this directory to find scientific collaborators in the alternative protein field.
Learn about cutting-edge alternative protein research funded by GFI. Find funding opportunities for your own research.
Explore the landscape of plant-based, cultivated, and fermentation companies including consumer brands, manufacturers, and ingredients companies.
Bring more alternative protein content to the classroom with these curriculum materials and resources for students and professors.
GFI’s Research Funding Database provides curated grant opportunities for open-access alternative protein research.
Meet our student groups
The Alt Protein Project is a growing student movement represented by brilliant and inspiring student groups at universities around the world. Read on to learn more about each group’s initiatives.
The Alt Protein Project around the world
In 2020, GFI established ten student groups at key universities that we believe are well-positioned to lead the alternative protein revolution. Each group has members from different disciplines and academic stages working together to define and launch the high-impact initiatives needed for alternative proteins to succeed. Use the tabs below to explore how some of our groups are building alternative protein ecosystems on campus from Tel Aviv to Wageningen, Leuven to Boulder.
University of California, Berkeley
From Memphis Meats’ cultivated meat products to the famous plant-based burgers from Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat, the California Bay Area is the vanguard of the nation’s alternative protein movement. The Berkeley Alt Protein Project is proud to be a leader in this field by creating a three-pronged strategy to maximize our impact. Our student-led committees on education, business, and outreach all work to establish alternative protein as one of the new highlights of Berkeley’s uniquely innovative academic environment.
Seafood Characterization Report
The Berkeley Alt Protein Project’s Data Analytics committee worked with FishTag and The Good Food Institute to analyze data on seafood production in Brazil. The goal was to identify key metrics that would be useful in evaluating the quality of cultivated and plant-based seafood. This project also involved enumerating additional metrics FishTag may want to collect in the future.
University of Colorado, Boulder
Situated in the same city as Meati and Bond Pet Foods, the University of Colorado, Boulder is well-positioned to grow alternative proteins in the heart of the United States. The Boulder Alt Protein Project is an interdisciplinary team of passionate undergraduate and graduate students who look to grow the alternative proteins community in the Boulder area. We work to stimulate innovation and research around alternative proteins by advocating for alternative protein research at CU Boulder, hosting and organizing free public webinars, and providing a monthly outlet for discussion.
Campus spotlight: Boulder Alt. Protein Project
Check out this exciting article by CU Boulder’s College of Engineering and Applied Sciences about the beginning of the Boulder Alt Protein Project, featuring former student leader and now research associate at Memphis Meats, Allison McKay.
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
The Chapel Hill Alt Protein Project is located in North Carolina’s Research Triangle, a powerhouse for churning out innovations in the life sciences, advanced manufacturing, agtech, and cleantech. The Chapel Hill Alt Protein Project cultivates a thriving education and innovation hub by facilitating course creation at the region’s top universities and stimulating student entrepreneurship.
University of California, Davis
Sprouting from one of the nation’s top food and agricultural science universities and home to the first cultivated meat consortium of over 30 faculty members and students, the Davis Alt Protein Project accelerates alternative protein research, education, and innovation on campus. The student group champions the multidisciplinary backgrounds and diverse goals of its members. Together, they collaborate with faculty members to develop course integrations that will boost the community’s understanding of alternative proteins. The Davis Alt Protein Project also hosts regular seminars with industry leaders to emphasize how individual interests can be uniquely translated into careers in plant-based, cultivated, fermentation fields.
KU Leuven is among Europe’s most innovative universities, consistently producing patents and papers that influence researchers across the globe. Thanks to its renowned stem cell institute, KU Leuven also has a crucial framework in place to become a leader in cultivated meat research. The Leuven Alt Protein Project is actively building a community on campus for students and academics. It aims to create research opportunities focused on the development of cultivated meat across multiple departments and universities in the region.
Tel Aviv University
Good Food Tel Aviv is positioned at the center of Start-Up Nation, where entrepreneurs, scientists, and policymakers team up to advance the frontier of food technology and innovation. Student leaders focus on stimulating alternative protein research by crafting research proposals with faculty members, advising student research projects, and nurturing a vibrant community of students and researchers passionate about shaping the future of food.
Wageningen University is one of the world’s leading agricultural, food science, and life science universities—and a powerhouse for plant-based innovation. It houses a large research program focused on building better plant-based meat and is well-suited to be a hub for alternative protein research and innovation activity. The Wageningen Alt Protein Project is working towards expanding alternative protein research and education opportunities as well as creating a vibrant collective of students eager to learn more about this exciting new field.
‘Why isn’t there a course on the protein transition?‘ Students bring WUR curriculum to-date.
Check out this feature in WUR’s Resource magazine, spotlighting Wageningen Alt Protein Project co-founder and MsC student Panagiotis Vlachogiannis as he works with his fellow team members to fill a white space in alternative protein education.
Are you excited about sparking the alternative protein movement on campus? Do you think your school is a good fit for the Alt Protein Project? We’d love to hear from you! Fill out the interest form below, and a member of GFI’s University Innovation Team will be in touch when we’re ready to accept new groups. In the meantime, remember to check out our longform student group guide to get a better sense of what’s involved in leading a student group.
Check out upcoming events
The Science of Alt. Protein: Developing optimized media for cultivated meat production with Dr. David Block
Join Dr. David Block, Professor at the University of California, Davis, on February 24th for a review of his GFI-funded research project on the application of optimization tools to achieve…
This webinar will explore the key characteristics of plant protein sources for alternative protein end products.
This international scientific conference will present the latest research insights and findings related to plant-based protein production.
The fourth and final program of the series will highlight the potential and the challenges of cell-based approaches to meat and fish alternatives from experts in the field and industry.
UNIVERSITY INNOVATION SPECIALIST
Amy Huang helps lead GFI’s efforts to transform universities into engines of alternative protein research and education.