The Alt Protein Project at Utrecht

The goal of “The Alt Protein Project at Utrecht” is to enable a sustainable just and animal-free food supply by creating an impactful research and development hub on Alt (alternative) Proteins in Utrecht.

Currently, around half of the world’s dietary protein is sourced from animals. However, the intensive production of animal-proteins leads to severe problems. Amongst those problems are the inefficient use of resources like arable land and water, high greenhouse-gas emissions and the development of new zoonotic diseases, in addition to ethical concerns, animal welfare and problematic labour conditions in the sector.

Demand for proteins world-wide is expected to continue to rise in the upcoming decades (Valin et al. 2013). Without changing our way of sourcing dietary proteins, we will aggravate existing problems caused by animal-based protein-production. The project researchers want to meet this challenge by leveraging the transformative power of alt proteins for a sustainable development in the food sector.
Alt proteins can replace dietary animal-based proteins without using animals for their production (Sexton, Garnett, & Lorimer, 2019). Such alt proteins aim to provide comparable or improved nutrition and taste, while costing the same or less compared to their animal-equivalent. Currently, most alt proteins are derived from plants, to a lesser extent from microbial fermentation or cell cultures. More research is needed for alt proteins to reach industrial scale and help the sustainable transition of our food systems, including, technical, as well as socio-economic and legislative challenges.

The Utrecht Alt Protein Project will aim to achieve the below goals:

  1. Increase and diversify support for the field of alt proteins at UU by generating excitement about the opportunities and awareness of the urgency (organising events, networking).
  2. Facilitate the development of a community of students and researchers interested in pursuing a career in alt proteins inside or outside Utrecht University (UU).
  3. Initiate and aid the education of the student/researcher community on alt proteins by incorporating the subject in existing courses or initiating new courses/training programs.
  4. Stimulate open-access research on alt proteins.
  5. Empower student-entrepreneurs to start alt protein companies/initiatives addressing key bottlenecks in the industry.

The research and student community at UU excels in the broad range of disciplines essential for alt protein advancement and this project aims to engage these communities by leveraging the proximity to UU students/PhD candidates and their collaboration with the internationally recognised non-profit the “Good Food Institute” (GFI).