A first-of-its-kind plant-based protein factory is set to open in Europe, which will help make vegan meat more affordable and scalable.
Ten partners, including plant-based meat brand Vivera, clean meat startup Mosa Meat, sustainable biotech protein company 3F Bio, and European meat giant ABP Foods, are behind the project. Named Plenitude, the project is joint-funded by 3F Bio and a €17m grant from Bio Based Industries Joint Undertaking under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 program, Food Navigator reports. Horizon 2020 is the EU’s biggest research and innovation program to date.
What Is Plenitude?
The large-scale biorefinery will use two “established processes” to produce plant-based protein for food and bioethanol from low-cost crops.
3F Bio CEO Jim Laird explained that the biorefinery will use part of a cereal crop to create feedstock for the fermentation process that makes its Abunda mycoprotein. “The process uses large scale fermentation to grow protein using sugars found in grains such as wheat and maize,” he said.
The company’s food sector customers use the mycoprotein to make vegan meat products such as burgers, sausages, and chicken.
Making Vegan Meat More Affordable
The Ghent-based factory will be capable of producing 16,000 tonnes of plant-based protein annually, which may ultimately bring down the cost of vegan meat and feed the growing demand. To Laird, the increased availability of vegan meat products is just one part of the solution toward creating a more environmentally-friendly food system — to be truly sustainable, it also needs to be affordable.
“Our focus is sustainability and for us that means sustainable both environmentally and economically,” Laird said, noting that he hopes the biorefinery is a model that can be scaled and repeated in other locations.
Laird added that it is “vitally important” to find sustainable, scalable solutions to meet the demand for plant-based meat, driven by consumer concern for health, climate change, and animal welfare. “Global experts in governments and bodies such as the UN and the FAO all consistently highlight the need to reduce the reliance on protein from livestock,” he said. “From an environmental perspective this is one of the crises of our time.”
If Plentitude proves successful, the first facility may have the potential to produce 50,000 tonnes each year.