There is a critical need to engage scientific and engineering talent to enhance the R&D capacity of the smart protein sector. , Photo Credit: Freepik
If we plan to feed 10 billion people by 2050 without harming the planet, it is imperative to reimagine how we produce meat. Animal agriculture is the largest contributor to the ecological and climate crisis, accounting for 14.5% of greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, in countries like India, which is home to one-sixth of the global population, an improved food system is vital.
Smart Protein is the solution to meet the country’s growing protein demand and feed its growing population sustainably. Also known globally as alternative proteins, these next-generation foods are made from plant-derived ingredients, microbial cell-based proteins, or cultivated animal cells. They provide viable alternatives to traditional meat, eggs, dairy and seafood by mimicking the sensory and cultural experience of animal products, while taking raising animals for food out of the equation.
There are massive opportunities for Indian youth in new and emerging roles in R&D, manufacturing, investment and enterprise creation in the smart protein value chain. This nascent but growing industry requires highly specialized scientists, engineers, policy makers, entrepreneurs, marketers, etc.
There is a significant need to engage scientific and engineering talent to increase the R&D capacity of the sector: more biologists are studying and optimizing plants, microbes and animal cells for protein production; More engineers are improving materials and bioprocessing techniques; More food scientists are combining these ingredients in innovative ways to create foods. Other opportunities in the value chain include functional component providers, R&D consultants, co-manufacturers, venture capitalists, and branding and marketing agencies.
Paving the way for a new industry also comes with many regulatory challenges. This requires more policy makers, lawyers and regulatory professionals to create a clear path to market for this category, provide government incentives to the sector and unlock public investment. Non-profit organizations and think tanks can be helped by open-access knowledge resources, building programs and advisory support and a community of stakeholders such as start-ups, investors, students and value chain partners.
Courses and Programs
International universities have introduced high-impact alternative courses as part of their degree programmes. For example, ‘Future Foods: Introduction to Advanced Meat Alternatives’ is an elective subject for third and fourth year undergraduate students of the Food Science and Technology program at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Tel-Aviv University and Ben Gurion University in Israel offer an alternative course called ,Cultured meat and plant-based meat’. Another option is ‘The Protein Transition’ open access course offered by Cellular Agriculture Australia.
While dedicated smart protein programs are still up and coming in India, students can study in fields like Agricultural and Plant Biotechnology, Food Science and Engineering, Biotechnology, Biochemistry, Microbiology, Chemical and Bioprocess Engineering, Environmental Biotechnology, Industrial Biotechnology. Can pursue degree in relevant allied fields. and synthetic biology.
As the smart protein sector in India continues to grow and evolve, it is clear that there is a need for individuals with a unique blend of scientific expertise and entrepreneurial spirit to lead the change and shape its future.
The author is a civil engineer who oversees talent development initiatives at the Good Food Institute India.