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Stay updated on current funding opportunities, innovators doing exciting work, and our impact on the agtech industry with weekly posts from the GroundBreakers team.

Are you a rising plant based protein processing innovator?

There are thousands of rising innovators in startups and in research doing the hard work to help our food system provide consumers quality protein foods with far more sustainability than our current animal-based protein sources. Plant based proteins include meat and dairy analogues and a host of other food products - and they require innovations in how crops are turned into transportable and storable ingredients with minimal processing.

To address this, on August 16, 2022, GroundBreakers issued a call for proposals for a new $10,000 grant for innovations in plant based protein (PBP) with a focus on lower capital processing for PBP ingredients. This decision was made after months of research and with the support of founding members from established organizations in the agtech industry.

How did we pick this area?

PBP is growing rapidly in consumer demand, early stage investment, and corporate interest, with a forecast 6%+ annual growth. Starting in the spring, GroundBreakers and our members started scouting opportunities to explore and innovators to support.

In our initial research, we found over 200 Innovators in 28 countries addressing this opportunity. In our initial Scouting Report, we looked at three Thought-Starter areas for learning, innovation, and opportunity in PBP:

  • Traits, crops, and production: PBP depends on crops that contain accessible protein, are easy for producers to grow and sell, and are easily processed and integrated in the supply chain.

  • Processing and adding value: PBP requires ingredient processing to be usable in consumer products and multiple areas must be addressed to make them usable and marketable.

  • Consumer products and demand: PBP end products must resonate with consumers’ palates, values, and budgets, and to achieve scale that makes an impact, demand has to grow predictably over time so the value chain can accommodate it.

A Deeper Dive

From the Thought-Starters, our members discussed a few Opportunity Areas for us to dive deeper into in our next Scouting Report and we jointly settled on five. Searching our data and casting our net further in these areas, we found 100’s of startups around the world within these Opportunity Areas and published a Scouting Report in May 2022 to highlight them. View below for excerpts of what we found - an opportunity map, a geographic distribution map, and an innovation maturity assessment in these five Opportunity Areas.

(Note that this data was collected on or before May 2022; additional startups have since been identified):

  • Clean Label: PBP innovators in "clean label" are producing (or enabling others to produce them) products with fewer "scary" or "chemical" sounding ingredients on the label.

  • Flexitarian Preference: These innovators are serving flexitarians to increase their ratio of plant based over meat based meal occasions.

  • Small Scale Processing: Small scale processing innovators are creating lower capital ways to process plant based protein crops into ready-to-use ingredients for product innovators.

  • Duckweed: Duckweed is a protein newly approved for human consumption that is much more efficient to produce than existing plant based protein crops.

  • Regulatory Approval for New Proteins: These innovators with new (and potentially better) protein sources are blazing a trail for many others to follow.

A Project Emerges

From the Thought-Starters and the Scouting Report, we and our members saw an opportunity to support a specific type of innovator working across all these Thought-Starters and Opportunity Areas - those innovators helping increase the capacity of our food system to shift from animal-based to plant-based protein ingredients through processing innovations, especially those doing so to lower capital costs for additional capacity in the food system. Our first project was launched!

What’s Next

Shifting from plants grown for animal feed to plants grown for food will go a long way toward sustainability, but improving/minimizing processing is needed for widespread adoption of animal free “meat”. Through GroundBreakers and our members, we’ve identified innovators working in areas like low temperature, side stream valorization, electrospinning, off flavor mitigation, enzymatic innovations, fat/lipid innovation, 3D printing, texture innovation, and more for crops like soy, other pulses/legumes, sunflower, rapeseed, and many others to address this opportunity.

One of these innovators will get cash and support to develop their work. Will it be you or someone you know? Join us at our upcoming webinar for PBP processing innovators where we’ll dive deeper into what we’ve seen and have speed networking so you can connect with other early and later stage innovators addressing this huge opportunity. Can’t join us at the webinar - apply for the grant here.


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