What proteins should we produce?

Step one in protein development is deciding which protein to develop first. Choice of bioreactor, feedstocks and downstream processing are all dependent on the organisms we use and the proteins they produce. This page is very much a work in progress and your input would be hugely welcome.

A note on “closed source” enterprises

We mention a number of commercial “closed source” companies in these sections. We fully support their efforts to bring the benefits of alternative proteins. Commercial competition has brought many excellent innovations to market. Many companies seek to do good, even before seeking profit, however there is a risk that good companies and/or their IP gets acquired by less benevolent enterprises. Shareholder primacy means that some of the world’s poorest, in the most challenging environments may not benefit as much as they could from the innovations that they need most. Open source projects like this serve to benefit all corporations (as they can access our data) while also ensuring our innovations have the potential to benefit all.

Biotech Proteins

Biotechnology is providing amazing advances in many areas of food production including:

  1. Single-cell protein
  2. Precision fermentation
  3. Cultivated meat

These are currently ranked in order that Martin envisages attempting them, but if you are working on open science projects around any of these, please do get in touch.

Meat & Plant Protein

Plants are definitely a more sustainable source of protein than highly inefficient traditional meat. Only a fraction of the protein that livestock eats makes its way into the meat that we eat.

Plant-based protein production still requires significantly more land, and in many cases more water, carbon emissions, fertilisers, pesticides, herbicides, etc. than any of the biotech proteins listed above. Given the inefficiencies of current agribusiness cultivation, this results in significant discharge of nutrients and other environmentally detrimental chemicals into water courses.

There are many improvements that can be made to crop cultivation. For example The Land Institute are doing wonderful work on perennial crops. Many small (and not-so-small) scale farmers and horticulturalists are doing wonderful things around both increasing yields and decreasing environmental impact.

Climate change poses an existential threat, it is essential that we reduce GHG emissions from food production and all other activities. Even if we manage this we still need to adapt to climate change. There are already populated places on earth where natural crop cultivation is impossible. Microbial protein production could be sustainable in all such regions. Our challenge is to ensure that it is economically viable and available to all who need it.

Plant Based Meat

Tofu and Tempeh are examples of ancient meat alternatives. Beanburgers and veggie burgers took the next step in vegetarian fast food. More recently companies like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods have taken great strides in meat alternatives.

We are inclined to leave plant based meat to well-funded enterprises, as they generally offer no nutritional benefits over the plants they are made from, and naturally requires plants, which have their own downsides.

Single-Cell Protein

Which single-cell proteins should we produce?

Precision Fermentation

What is Precision Fermentation and could we implement it?

Cultivated Meat

How is cultivated meat made?

Last modified April 23, 2024: Case change (76adfbf)