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The University of California, (UC Berkeley) is introducing a new Alternative Meats Lab “alt.meat lab” as a way to help students find opportunities in the rapidly growing plant based food market. The lab will be fully equipped with the latest technology enabling the students to create plant based meats. Led by the Sutardja Center for Entrepreneurship & Technology (SCET), the lab will provide a space for students who wish to pioneer their own businesses and find opportunities in areas such as data science, Blockchain and fintech.

Meat alternatives are already showing mass market appeal and have been estimated to reach a value of at least one trillion dollars; indicating a huge potential to completely transform the future of food.

“One of our goals for the lab will be to develop delicious food that is similar to meat from a nutritional and functional perspective, but may not necessarily mimic meat exactly.”  said Ricardo San Martin, co-chair for the lab. Martin also explained that there is evidence to suggest that meat-lovers would be just as interested in purchasing this type of product as vegans or vegetarians.

Many of us are aware of the growing demand for plant based alternatives, however we may have underestimated the influence of young entrepreneurs. This lab won’t be first time we see students driving the food revolution – innovative startups such as Yale’s Zoni, and Tesla inspired Gigafoods are prime examples of young people pushing towards sustainable produce.

But how are penniless students turning these ideas into commercially viable businesses?

Actually, like the “Vegan Mafia“, there are many venture capitalists who are keen to back startups with a green mission. Vegan themselves or not, investors are seeing the value in funding these types of businesses and are actively seeking them out.

“Through our network of alumni, investors, and founders, we determined that meat alternatives represent one of the biggest opportunities for creating a startup right now,” says Ikhlaq Sidhu, faculty director and founder of the Sutardja Center for Entrepreneurship & Technology at UC Berkeley and professor in the Department of Industrial Engineering & Operations Research, “The market is huge, and we believe the technology is ready for entrepreneurs to compete with traditional meat in the near future.”

According to Food Ingredients First, ‘Givaudan (a global leader in flavour and fragrance) will be partnering with SCET to help with perfecting the taste, texture and smell of the meats. Their Global Business Development Manager, Flavio Garofalo said:

“We are excited to work with some of the brightest young minds in the world to help find solutions that address the taste and texture challenges of non-animal proteins. The societal and environmental implications are enormous, and no one can solve this individually. We must collaborate to truly move forward, and we feel that the multi-disciplinary approach being utilized at Berkeley will yield optimal results”

On a mission to make meat alternatives a success, GFI (Good Food Institute) are also working in partnership with Berkeley. The non profit is made up of scientists, lawyers, entrepreneurs and lobbyists passionate about solving the myriad of issues we face as a result of meat consumption and are dedicated to driving a more humane, sustainable and healthy food supply. The GFI will provide the students with key contacts and invaluable industry knowledge.


Image Credits: QZ | Impossible Foods

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