Our panel of international experts explores how we can modernize protein production in ways that are less impactful on our environment.
Our panel of international experts explores how we can modernize protein production in ways that are less impactful on our environment.
The oldest alternative protein, tofu, was invented in China during the Han Dynasty. There are many different origin stories, the most popular claiming that Prince Liú Ān (179–122 BC) invented the delicious soy dish. Some say that he created tofu while attempting to produce an immortality elixir; others say he landed on tofu while trying to create an easily eaten and nutritious food for his aging grandmother.
An alternative protein is protein derived from plants or fermentation that are used as a substitute to typical animal proteins.
The most common alternative proteins are derived from plants such as soy, pea, or wheat. These proteins are used as is from the seed or grain. Alternatively they are also processed into high protein powders that are then used within alternative foods and beverages.
Alternative proteins made through fermentation are typically fungi or animal based. Such proteins are grown within reactors to make animal or fungi proteins without needing an actual animal or biological ecosystem respectively.
Tofu, also known as bean curd in English, is a food prepared by coagulating soy milk and then pressing the resulting curds into solid white blocks of varying softness; it can be silken, soft, firm, extra firm or super firm.
The Drought in Numbers 2022 report states: “Sustainable and efficient agricultural management techniques are needed to grow more food on less land and with less water, and humans must change their relationships with food, fodder and fibre – moving toward plant-based diets and stemming the consumption of animals.”
Should we only eat plants?
For those of us in the US in particular, a country which continues to be the largest producer and consumer of animal-based foods, shifting to personal diets, restaurant menus, institutional cafeterias, and grocery stores that are entirely or mostly plant-based foods is arguably the best strategy for protecting our planet, animals, and our health. While there is no one-size-fits-all universal diet and food choices will continue to vary around the world due to regional, cultural, economic, climatic, and other differences, humanity writ large is over-producing and over-consuming animal products. This is taking a tremendous toll on animals, ecosystems, and our bodies, and there is an urgent need to shift away from animal-based proteins to prevent a crisis.
Over 70 billion terrestrial animals and trillions of aquatic animals are farm-raised around the world each year, requiring an overwhelming share of our limited arable land to grow feed crops and, in certain areas, graze animals. The immense scale of animal-based protein production has been achieved by the globalization of the factory farming model, also known as concentrated or confined animal feeding operations (CAFO). At its core, factory farming exploits animals, people, and the planet’s resources in a drive to maximize profits, subjecting humans and non-human animals alike to stress, injury, disease, and displacement. Factory-farmed animal production is associated with high levels of greenhouse gas emissions, large volumes of waste, heavy freshwater consumption, and misuse of antimicrobial medicines. We have seen a significant rise in factory farming in industrialized, Western nations over the past few decades at the expense of small, independent family farms, and in the US today an estimated 95-99% of animals raised for food are raised in factory farms.
In regions with medium and high meat and dairy consumption, shifting to more plant-forward diets and prioritizing land to produce crops for direct human consumption is critical to achieving a sustainable and future fit food system. In the US, roughly 40% of land is used for the production of farmed animals, with about 33% of that dedicated to growing crops for animal feed. This is predominantly corn and soybeans, grown in enormous row crop plantations that are heavily reliant on chemical pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, and machine harvesters. The production, processing, and transport of feed crops is a significant percentage of meat and dairy’s climate footprint. It is an inefficient system, and it is estimated that for every 100 calories of crops fed to farmed animals, only 17-30 calories end up reaching humans.
Emphasizing plant-based and animal-free foods in individual diets and agricultural systems is associated with clear benefits for the planet. Research commissioned for World Animal Protection calculated that reducing pork consumption per person by 50% and replacing it with plant-based proteins by 2040 would achieve a 43% decrease in our projected climate change impacts for current consumption trends. For chicken, a 50% reduction by 2040 would result in a 41% decrease in climate change impacts. On a per kilogram basis, plant foods have significantly lower total CO2 equivalent emissions than all animal-based foods. Plant-forward and plant-rich diets have also been connected to personal health benefits, including lower risks of certain cancers and longer lifespans.
Globally, livestock emit 7.1 Gigatonnes of Co2-equiv per year, equating to 14.5 percent of all anthropogenic GHG emissions.
Why don’t we just work on making animals more climate-friendly?
Surely the scope of the problem is big enough that more than one solution is called for. With a population increase from eight billion to ten billion people expected by 2030, we’re running out of time for animal agriculture to come up with their own techno fixes.
I can’t say whether it’s scientifically possible to biohack animals to drink less water or excrete less. Animal agriculture already consumes up to one-third of the world’s fresh water, and livestock waste is well over 100 times the waste of human beings. Farm animals and their feed crops already occupy 45% of the earth, so we would also have to increase stocking densities, which requires even more brutal ways of confining them.
However, with our focus being alternative seafood, we’re in complete agreement that the commercial fishing industry should find ways to eliminate its environmental destruction. For every pound of target species caught, there’s as much as five pounds of “bycatch.” That includes other fish, marine mammals, and even sea birds: millions of whales, sharks, dolphins, and seals are killed by the industry every year. Commercial fishing is responsible for depositing more than 100 million pounds of plastic into the oceans each year. These are practices that should not be allowed to continue.
Efforts to reduce or prevent emission of greenhouse gases. Mitigation can mean using new technologies and renewable energies, making older equipment more energy efficient, or changing management practices or consumer behavior.
A poll of 1,000 chefs from 11 countries around the world found that 90% of chefs see a growing interest in alternative proteins from their customers.
Who are the major players behind this protein shift?
The players involved in the protein shift range from the for-profit to the non-profit sectors, as well as those involved in government and academia. The protein shift requires involvement from both the bottom up and the top down. Entrepreneurs, manufacturers, and investors all seek to develop the next generation of alternative protein products. To create the products at all necessitates the participation of ingredient companies, suppliers, and equipment manufacturers. And retailers and foodservice companies must work to increase sales of alternative proteins and attract consumers, who look for delicious, affordable, convenient ways to meet their needs.
Beyond the private sector, scientists perform foundational-level, mission-critical research and transform those findings into swift commercial translation. Similarly, universities build a robust pipeline of technical talent, and students create ecosystems of learning about alternative protein on campuses. In government, policymakers support and fund alternative protein research and development, and advocate for public policy that places all proteins on a level playing field.
Chris Bryant reviewed 43 studies on the healthiness and environmental sustainability of plant-based animal product alternatives (PB-APAs) compared to animal products. The studies suggest that PB-APAs are more environmentally sustainable and generally healthier than animal products, with benefits including favorable nutritional profiles, aiding weight loss and muscle synthesis, and catering to specific health conditions, making them a feasible way to reduce animal product consumption.
Are alt proteins highly processed?
Alternative proteins can be called ‘highly processed’, but this classification is limited, and can be downright misleading when it comes to the implication that these foods are unhealthy.
For example, some of the major criticisms of ‘ultra-processed’ foods include having high energy density, high glycaemic index, hyper-palatability, and low hunger satiation. However, these criticisms do not apply to meat alternatives! For example, plant-based meats have lower energy density and higher hunger satiation compared to meat from animals!
Moreover, when we look at the classification of foods according to degree of processing, it becomes clear that there is not necessarily an association with healthiness. For example, there are highly processed things like multivitamins, which are hugely beneficial to our health, as well as completely unprocessed things like raw meat or certain fungi, which are totally natural, but can be deadly to humans.
What matters for health is not the degree of processing, but the nutritional profile. Compared to meat from animals, plant-based meats have lower levels of saturated fat, cholesterol, and calorie density, and higher levels of fiber.
The market for alternative meat, eggs, dairy and seafood products is predicted to reach at least $290 billion by 2035, according to research by Boston Consulting Group and Blue Horizon Corp.
Why is the investor world so keen on alt proteins?
We are in a climate emergency.
Food – particularly animal agriculture – is at the center of our climate crisis.
Let’s look at food waste. About 40% of the food produced globally is thrown away. Now, consider this: The most efficient farm animal in turning crops into meat is the chicken, and according to the World Resources Institute, it takes 9 calories of chicken feed to get one calorie back out. That’s 800%, not 40%, food waste. And it only gets worse with pigs (15 calories in for 1 calorie out) and cows (40 calories in for every calorie out). Animal agriculture is responsible for 20% of direct greenhouse gas emissions (not even counting seafood), and it takes up 75% of global agricultural land use and more than 40% of total agricultural water use for feed, alone. Right now, the industry slaughters tens of billions of land animals every year to feed people; by 2050 it is going to be slaughtering 70 to 100% more animals.
The use of antibiotics in farm animals is also driving antibiotic resistance, about which Dr. Margaret Chan, the former head of the World Health Organization, warned, “The world is heading towards a post-antibiotic era in which common infections will once again kill. This will be the end of modern medicine as we know it.”
The UN Environment Program’s 2020 report, Preventing the Next Pandemic, called out the intensification of animal agriculture as a key driver of pandemics. The prevalence of pandemics are set to multiply with increased slaughter counts of genetically-similar farmed animals kept in confined areas.
Our global food system is also the primary driver of biodiversity loss. In Food System Impacts on Biodiversity Loss, The Chatham House notes that “…global dietary patterns need to converge around diets based more on plants, owing to the disproportionate impact of animal farming on biodiversity…”.
The world will have to choose between irreversibly fueling climate change, biodiversity loss, and mass starvation or addressing the inefficiencies of a broken system. If we are to put the planet on a sustainable path, and address the exigencies of antibiotic resistance, the emergence of new pandemics, and the mass extinction now underway, we must take bold, corrective action. Replacing industrial animal agriculture with plant-based, cellular agriculture, and novel protein alternatives will have a significant, positive impact on the environment, humanity, and the other species with whom we share the planet.
Unovis invests in companies that are redefining how to sustainably feed the planet- for today and tomorrow by funding innovations along the alternative protein production value chain.
The total greenhouse gas emissions caused by an individual, event, organization, service, or product, expressed as carbon dioxide equivalent. Greenhouse gases can be emitted through the burning of fossil fuels, land clearance and the production and consumption of food, manufactured goods, materials, wood, roads, buildings, transportation and other services.
Not everyone is enthusiastic about cultured meat. In 2023, the Italian government approved a draft bill banning the production and commercialization of lab-grown meat for human and animal consumption. The ban was presented as a way to preserve Italy’s food and culinary heritage and to protect human health and domestic industry. The ban follows a petition launched by the National Farmers’ Association against ‘synthetic foods’ that collected almost half a million signatures. Researchers fear that this ban, in contrast to other European countries, could stifle innovation in the food sector and hamper research and development in Italy.
“Lab-grown meat” is a misnomer for cultivated meat and seafood. These products, in which meat is grown outside of an animal, are not actually produced in a laboratory. They are produced in food processing facilities using technology akin to the centuries-old fermentation technology that makes yogurt, beer, kimchi, and sauerkraut. Although the process looks similar to fermentation, cultivated meat and seafood are based on cell-culture technology that allows small tissue samples to be harmlessly collected from animals and grown in large-scale cell-culture facilities. (Another common term for cultivated meat is cultured meat.) Through cell-culture technology, cells can replicate and produce products composed of the same cell types found in traditional meat. These cells can then be harvested and used to produce meat products with the same characteristics as traditional animal meats.
The technology used to produce cultivated meat is well understood and has been used to produce products for decades, including tissues and biologics used in medicine. Biologists take cells from animal tissue, and improve their ability to reproduce and grow outside of the animal. This process can be done with or without genetic manipulation. Ultimately, cultivated meat products should contain similar levels of protein and nutrients as traditional animal meats. And since the process to produce cultivated meats is very well controlled, the final product is actually less likely to contain harmful contaminants, pesticides, artificial hormones or bacteria than conventional animal meat products, so long as standard safety procedures are followed. In the case of seafood and cultivated meats, mercury, antibiotics, parasites, and other common contaminants are eliminated from the finished products. In addition, all cultivated meat and seafood products must undergo a rigorous evaluation by a national authority such as the FDA, USDA, or European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). No country allows the sale of cultivated meat products without going through this rigorous process.
There are many lab technologies used to create cultivated meat, and many more in innovation. One technique is called shear cell. “Shear cell technology is a new technique for fabricating artificial meat based on the concept of flow-induced structures. The process can be performed in a conical shear cell or a cylindrical Couette cell, using well-defined flow fields to build up the biopolymer material.”
What else can alternative protein technology be used for?
Although much of the technology used in alt proteins is in its infancy, it is entirely possible that any products currently obtained from animal cells can be reproduced. In fact, biotechnology-produced ingredients like enzymes, colorants, and flavors are already ubiquitous in the food system and are proven safe. And we have been using microbes in our food for millenia. For example, precision fermentation is used to make most rennet in cheese.
Down the line, breast milk, animal gelatin, collagen, leather, as well as tissue-derived medical products (think: bone, muscle, and tissue replacements) could all be made using cell-culture technology. As this technology improves, multiple types of cells will be able to be grown together to form complex organs and tissues to produce virtually any animal-derived product. And that’s just the start—imagine a future in which you can eat entirely proteins that have all the characteristics of your favorite foods and none of the downsides. Novel proteins could be created for new purposes altogether.
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Providing best water quality conditions to ensure optimal living condition for growth, breeding and other physiological needs
Water quality is sourced from natural seawater with dependency on the tidal system. Water is treated to adjust pH and alkalinity before stocking.
Producers that own and manages the farm operating under small-scale farming model with limited input, investment which leads to low to medium production yield
All 1,149 of our farmers in both regencies are smallholder farmers who operate with low stocking density, traditional ponds, and no use of any other intensification technology.
Safe working conditions — cleanliness, lighting, equipment, paid overtime, hazard safety, etc. — happen when businesses conduct workplace safety audits and invest in the wellbeing of their employees
Company ensure implementation of safe working conditions by applying representative of workers to health and safety and conduct regular health and safety training. The practices are proven by ASIC standards’ implementation
Implementation of farming operations, management and trading that impact positively to community wellbeing and sustainable better way of living
The company works with local stakeholders and local governments to create support for farmers and the farming community in increasing resilience. Our farming community is empowered by local stakeholders continuously to maintain a long generation of farmers.
Freezing seafood rapidly when it is at peak freshness to ensure a higher quality and longer lasting product
Our harvests are immediately frozen with ice flakes in layers in cool boxes. Boxes are equipped with paper records and coding for traceability. We ensure that our harvests are processed with the utmost care at <-18 degrees Celsius.
Sourcing plant based ingredients, like soy, from producers that do not destroy forests to increase their growing area and produce fish feed ingredients
With adjacent locations to mangroves and coastal areas, our farmers and company are committed to no deforestation at any scale. Mangrove rehabilitation and replantation are conducted every year in collaboration with local authorities. Our farms are not established in protected habitats and have not resulted from deforestation activity since the beginning of our establishment.
Implement only natural feeds grown in water for aquatic animal’s feed without use of commercial feed
Our black tiger shrimps are not fed using commercial feed. The system is zero input and depends fully on natural feed grown in the pond. Our farmers use organic fertilizer and probiotics to enhance the water quality.
Enhance biodiversity through integration of nature conservation and food production without negative impact to surrounding ecosysytem
As our practices are natural, organic, and zero input, farms coexist with surrounding biodiversity which increases the volume of polyculture and mangrove coverage area. Farmers’ groups, along with the company, conduct regular benthic assessments, river cleaning, and mangrove planting.
THE TERM “MOONSHOT” IS OFTEN USED TO DESCRIBE an initiative that goes beyond the confines of the present by transforming our greatest aspirations into reality, but the story of a moonshot isn’t that of a single rocket. In fact, the Apollo program that put Neil Armstrong on the moon was actually preceded by the Gemini program, which in a two-year span rapidly put ten rockets into space. This “accelerated” process — with a new mission nearly every 2-3 months — allowed NASA to rapidly iterate, validate their findings and learn from their mistakes. Telemetry. Propulsion. Re-entry. Each mission helped NASA build and test a new piece of the puzzle.
The program also had its fair share of creative challenges, especially at the outset, as the urgency of the task at hand required that the roadmap for getting to the moon be written in parallel with the rapid pace of Gemini missions. Through it all, the NASA teams never lost sight of their ultimate goal, and the teams finally aligned on their shared responsibilities. Within three years of Gemini’s conclusion, a man did walk on the moon.
FACT is a food systems solutions activator that assesses the current food landscape, engages with key influencers, identifies trends, surveys innovative work and creates greater visibility for ideas and practices with the potential to shift key food and agricultural paradigms.
Each activator focuses on a single moonshot; instead of producing white papers, policy briefs or peer-reviewed articles, these teams design and implement blueprints for action. At the end of each activator, their work is released to the public and open-sourced.
As with any rapid iteration process, many of our activators re-assess their initial plans and pivot to address new challenges along the way. Still, one thing has remained constant: their conviction that by working together and pooling their knowledge and resources, they can create a multiplier effect to more rapidly activate change.
Who can enter and how selections are made.
A Greener Blue is a global call to action that is open to individuals and teams from all over the world. Below is a non-exhaustive list of subjects the initiative targets.
To apply, prospective participants will need to fill out the form on the website, by filling out each part of it. Applications left incomplete or containing information that is not complete enough will receive a low score and have less chance of being admitted to the storytelling lab.
Nonprofit organizations, communities of fishers and fish farmers and companies that are seeking a closer partnership or special support can also apply by contacting email@example.com and interacting with the members of our team.
Special attention will be given to the section of the form regarding the stories that the applicants want to tell and the reasons for participating. All proposals for stories regarding small-scale or artisanal fishers or aquaculturists, communities of artisanal fishers or aquaculturists, and workers in different steps of the seafood value chain will be considered.
Stories should show the important role that these figures play in building a more sustainable seafood system. To help with this narrative, the initiative has identified 10 principles that define a more sustainable seafood system. These can be viewed on the initiative’s website and they state:
Seafood is sustainable when:
Proposed stories should show one or more of these principles in practice.
Applications are open from the 28th of June to the 15th of August 2022. There will be 50 selected applicants who will be granted access to The Lexicon’s Total Storytelling Lab. These 50 applicants will be asked to accept and sign a learning agreement and acceptance of participation document with which they agree to respect The Lexicon’s code of conduct.
The first part of the lab will take place online between August the 22nd and August the 26th and focus on training participants on the foundation of storytelling, supporting them to create a production plan, and aligning all of them around a shared vision.
Based on their motivation, quality of the story, geography, and participation in the online Lab, a selected group of participants will be gifted a GoPro camera offered to the program by GoPro For A Change. Participants who are selected to receive the GoPro camera will need to sign an acceptance and usage agreement.
The second part of the Storytelling Lab will consist of a production period in which each participant will be supported in the production of their own story. This period goes from August 26th to October 13th. Each participant will have the opportunity to access special mentorship from an international network of storytellers and seafood experts who will help them build their story. The Lexicon also provides editors, animators, and graphic designers to support participants with more technical skills.
The final deadline to submit the stories is the 14th of October. Participants will be able to both submit complete edited stories, or footage accompanied by a storyboard to be assembled by The Lexicon’s team.
All applicants who will exhibit conduct and behavior that is contrary to The Lexicon’s code of conduct will be automatically disqualified. This includes applicants proposing stories that openly discriminate against a social or ethnic group, advocate for a political group, incite violence against any group, or incite to commit crimes of any kind.
All submissions must be the entrant’s original work. Submissions must not infringe upon the trademark, copyright, moral rights, intellectual rights, or rights of privacy of any entity or person.
Participants will retain the copyrights to their work while also granting access to The Lexicon and the other partners of the initiative to share their contributions as part of A Greener Blue Global Storytelling Initiative.
If a potential selected applicant cannot be reached by the team of the Initiative within three (3) working days, using the contact information provided at the time of entry, or if the communication is returned as undeliverable, that potential participant shall forfeit.
Selected applicants will be granted access to an advanced Storytelling Lab taught and facilitated by Douglas Gayeton, award-winning storyteller and information architect, co-founder of The Lexicon. In this course, participants will learn new techniques that will improve their storytelling skills and be able to better communicate their work with a global audience. This skill includes (but is not limited to) how to build a production plan for a documentary, how to find and interact with subjects, and how to shoot a short documentary.
The Lexicon provides video editors, graphic designers, and animators to support the participants to complete their stories.
The submitted stories will be showcased during international and local events, starting from the closing event of the International Year of Fisheries and Aquaculture 2022 in Rome, in January 2023. The authors of the stories will be credited and may be invited to join.
Storytelling lab participation:
Applicants that will be granted access to the storytelling Lab will be evaluated based on the entries they provided in the online form, and in particular:
Applications will be evaluated by a team of 4 judges from The Lexicon, GSSI and the team of IYAFA (Selection committee).
When selecting applications, the call promoters may request additional documentation or interviews both for the purpose of verifying compliance with eligibility requirements and to facilitate proposal evaluation.
Participants to the Storytelling Lab who will be given a GoPro camera will be selected based on:
The evaluation will be carried out by a team of 4 judges from The Lexicon, GSSI and the team of IYAFA (Selection committee).
Incidental expenses and all other costs and expenses which are not specifically listed in these Official Rules but which may be associated with the acceptance, receipt and use of the Storytelling Lab and the camera are solely the responsibility of the respective participants and are not covered by The Lexicon or any of the A Greener Blue partners.
All participants who receive a Camera are required to sign an agreement allowing GoPro for a Cause, The Lexicon and GSSI to utilize the films for A Greener Blue and their promotional purposes. All participants will be required to an agreement to upload their footage into the shared drive of The Lexicon and make the stories, films and images available for The Lexicon and the promoting partners of A Greener Blue.
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