Make the most of plant protein opportunities
Currently we are in the middle of a considerable re-think about how agricultural land is used, and that provides a great opportunity that we overlook at our peril.
We are being encouraged to reduce (but not eliminate) meat consumption, which means we can dedicate less of our land to growing animal feed. This shift could be accelerated by considering alternative feed sources such as insects, duckweed or microbial proteins.
These novel approaches have a smaller physical footprint, often use waste as an input, and would also free up land to be used for other purposes such as DEFRA’s ambition for carbon capture.
Another opportunity is that legumes are great for soil enrichment, which is important in low input systems. Including more plant proteins within our existing systems will help make us more self-sufficient and sustainable.
To facilitate this there is huge scope for developing novel plant protection products for legumes and breeding more robust varieties, both of which would increase the potential of including legumes within cropping rotations.
A third benefit is that protein can be extracted from what is currently considered a low-value outgrade product. Innovations such as this from within the sector include B-Hive’s process for extracting protein from the outgrade potatoes generated from packing and processing, including potato peel and unmarketable produce. The result is a vegan-friendly, allergen-free functional protein.
For all these changes, a major challenge is the coordination of Government, agriculture and food industry backing for the systems-level adjustments needed.
We may need changes in regulations around what can be fed to animals, greater protein processing capability in the UK, greater expertise and investment in breeding for protein crops to name just some of the challenges.
One of CHAP’s roles is to facilitate collaboration across the agri-food system, helping to bring together participants from across the sector to facilitate a transition to more self-sufficiency in protein production. The regular Advisory Group meetings, along with other CHAP events, help to stimulate discussion and find common ground for collaboration.
Combining the facilities we have across all four Agri-Tech Innovation Centres will be invaluable for developing and trialling innovative solutions to the challenges we face, whether it’s crop monitoring and biofungicide development for high protein crops, or control systems for growing novel protein sources in indoor settings.
Ms Senior leads CHAP’s Advisory Group, where key players from both inside and outside of agriculture are invited to discuss strategic issues affecting the sector. She is a passionate advocate for Agri-Tech entrepreneurship. Her recent podcast documentary ‘Innovating AgTech’ is available on all podcasting platforms. She runs PBS International Ltd, working with plant breeders and seed producers globally to design and manufacture solutions for pollination control.
To read the first blog in this series go to Rethinking plant protein.
For more on CHAP’s work in this area go to Seeking Future Proteins.
If you are interested in working with CHAP in the area of net zero, please send us an email using the enquiries form at the bottom of our homepage.