Push to create new sources of protein to feed growing world
Irish scientists and food companies embark on unprecedented research project
Sophie Kevany, The Irish Times
Jan 8, 2020
The creation of new sources of protein is a global priority as world population moves closer to the 10 billion mark and food production comes under increased strain due to the effects of climate change and a decline of nature systems.
A new generation of protein-rich foods is set to emerge soon, and would mark a significant, and somewhat controversial, move away from dairy and beef products – which currently dominate Irish production.
If successful it is likely to also lead to a dramatic change in human diets, especially in the developed world.
A team based at University College Cork (UCC), working in partnership with Teagasc, pasta giant Barilla, brewer AB InBev, Glanbia Ireland and other international partners, expects to have a new range of vegan foods and ingredients on the market by 2025.
The Smart Protein Project, the only one of its kind in the world, will use byproducts from beer, pasta and bread-making such as crusts, spent yeast and barley rootlets. These will be combined with fungi to create single-cell proteins. These microproteins, which are cheap, easy to produce and need minimal natural resources, are to be mixed with other plant proteins derived mainly from fava beans, lentils, chickpeas and quinoa.
The vegan foods ultimately produced are expected to include alternative meats, seafoods, dairy products and infant formula – all items consumers indicated they lacked in purchasing options when surveyed by the project team.
In total the initiative involves more than 30 partners in 21 countries. It will begin work this month with a budget of €9.6 million, of which €8.2 million is European Commission support via Horizon 2020 research funding. The rest comes from industry partners.
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