Optimising edible protein production
Earth cannot sustain the livestock farming needed for our growing meat demand. We're looking for scientists to create new protein sources that are nourishing and affordable, that people want to eat.
Why focus on edible proteins?
Livestock farming has a large environmental impact today, and demand for meat is expected to double by 2050. Livestock farming reduces biodiversity as it uses about a third of earth's entire land surface, and more than a third of globally farmed crops are used to feed livestock rather than humans. Livestock farming uses and pollutes large amounts of water, and produces as much greenhouse gas as the transport industry. As livestock farming intensifies to become more efficient, concerns about animal welfare and human health grows.
What are the opportunities?
There is an opportunity to provide meat alternatives to consumers who are worried about the environmental, ethical, safety and health impact of meat consumption. While about 6% of the UK population are strictly vegetarian, "flexitarians" who want to reduce meat, egg and dairy consumption make up about a third of UK consumers. Another significant opportunity is that of shaping the diets of billions of future consumers from growing economies such as China, who are expected to double current meat demand.

Lab-grown, cell-cultured meat in its early stages of development is expensive and difficult to turn into an appealing product. However, there are many factors to optimise in the cellular agriculture approach, with innovations from tissue engineering already bringing products closer to consumers' plates. Another approach is the data-driven identification of new plant and insect proteins and structures, which can be extracted and processed into meat-alternatives. Early-stage companies have begun genetically engineering microorganisms like yeast to produce proteins similar to meat, dairy and egg that can be processed with age-old techniques like fermentation. There is an exciting opportunity to create new animal-free products using cells and molecules as building blocks, which would reduce meat demand.
Who are we looking for?
We think this challenge would benefit from people with backgrounds in:

  • Chemistry
  • Protein purification
  • Synthetic biology
  • Tissue engineering
  • Materials science
  • Optimisation
  • Fluid dynamics
  • Systems engineering
  • Electonics
  • Biochemistry
  • Statistics
  • Machine learning
  • Data science
  • Food science
  • Molecular gastronomy

If you have a different STEM background, but you're keen to solve problems in this challenge area, please apply, the most interesting things happen at the interface between skill-sets!
Specific challenges
We're currently designing a number of specific challenges in this area.
Sign up if you'd like to work on this challenge area and find out more about the specific challenges!
How to create new protein sources that are sustainable, nourishing and tasty? Can you solve The Frontier challenge?
Other challenge areas

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Challenges have been developed in collaboration with Science Practice, design & research company working with scientists.
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