The Good Food Institute (GFI), a non-profit working to address the problems of food security and climate crisis by assisting startups in the sustainable food space, has announced that it will be awarding $5 million to 22 scientists from around the world, who are leading innovation in alternatives to whole cut meat and seafood.
The grant will support research addressing the scientific barriers to producing thick, structured, three-dimensional meat made from plants, cultivated from cells, or derived via fermentation. This is aimed at helping alternative meats break into the vast whole cut meat category.
With this new announcement, GFI’s total funding for open-access alternative meat research surpasses $13 million over three years, making GFI the largest funder of open-access alternative meat research in North America.
Lack of funding to decarbonize the current food system
With population rising around the world amidst a call to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees celsius relative to pre-industrial levels, the need to create a sustainable food system is imperative. In such a scenario, alternative meat and other alternative proteins will play a key role in curbing carbon emissions, and have been recognized as a powerful and scalable solution.
Alternative protein production causes up to 92% less global warming than conventional meat production, which is responsible for 57% of the 34% of adverse climate impact attributable to the current food system.
But despite the climate mitigation potential, funding of academic research in alternative proteins has lagged. Public investment for alternative protein research and development (R&D) was just $55 million in 2020, which brings the all-time public investment total to $112 million.
By comparison, public investment for clean energy R&D in 2020 was $27 billion, which is 490 times the public investment for alternative protein R&D in 2020 and 241 times the total public funds ever invested in the space.
Private investments in alternative proteins reached $3.1 billion in 2020, and yet public investment in the same year was barely 1% of that, which is minuscule and disproportionate to the climate solution alternative proteins offer.
Increased public investment in alternative protein R&D can achieve synergies with private R&D that can significantly accelerate scientific and social progress.
GFI leading the way
Through GFI’s Competitive Research Grant Program, each of the 22 grantees will receive up to $250,000 over two years — 13 will focus on cultivated meat, seven will focus on plant-based meat, and two will focus on meat made via fermentation.
The program is designed to address this public investment shortfall, catalyze scientific discovery, and build a strong open-access research environment to foster alternative meat innovation.
Since its inception in 2019, the program has awarded funding to 70 open-access research initiatives from 16 countries: Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Denmark, Estonia, India, Israel, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Serbia, Singapore, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
GFI grantees have made significant progress in their research over the past 12-24 months, with five projects successfully completed in 2021, according to a media release.
GFI Associate Director of Science and Technology Erin Rees Clayton, said, “The full potential of alternative proteins to drive down emissions depends heavily on continued research to answer the many remaining fundamental questions. We must invest in research and development now. Addressing the biggest scientific white spaces by building a robust foundation of open-access data will enable the entire sector to advance more efficiently.”
GFI Founder and President Bruce Friedrich, said, “Cutting emissions from food production is crucial to limiting climate change, and alternative proteins are the sleeper solution that can create the rapid change we need to meet this moment. Alternative proteins are the one food-based climate solution that scales and, with government support, can decarbonize global food production. Governments should invest significantly and now in alternative proteins as a key part of climate strategy that simultaneously addresses the increasing risk of pandemics, antibiotic resistance, and food insecurity.”