Danish researchers at the University of Copenhagen ( The Department of Food Science) have received USD 9 million in funding to develop the necessary knowledge required to invent a completely new category of vegan proteins that are a real sustainable alternative to animal protein. The grant comes from the Big Pharma Laboratory Novo Nordisk Foundation's “Proteins for Tomorrow's Food”. The program is one of the largest investments in Denmark for research in food proteins.
The research is carried out in a joint venture by the University of Copenhagen, the Technical University of Denmark, and Utrecht University in the Netherlands. They process yellow peas and oats—then they use a fermentation method and a combination of Bacillus bacteria and various molds, resulting in improved digestibility, more flavor, and an increased essential amino acid profile.
The research suggests that the methods should be transferable to other plant crops when the oats represent grains and the yellow peas represent legumes.
“In Proferment, we will use fermentation to optimize plant-based protein sources, so that the nutrient content and nutrient availability is increased, while creating flavours and textures that are appealing to us humans and provide a good eating experience,”Dennis Sandris Nielsen, Lead researcher, University of Copenhagen Professor
According to the researchers, regarding the knowledge of processing plants into protein-rich foods, we are at the beginning of Industrialization. We knew very little about what was going on at the microbiological and biochemical levels, which leads to fluctuations in quality. “
The research needs to find and create a new plant-based protein that is much more climate-friendly but also healthy. Currently, one-third of the Earth's arable land is used to grow feed for animals, when this land could be used to feed four billion more people.
The aim is to create a new concept using fermentation to address the challenges that exist when using plants as raw materials which are an alternative to animal protein. This research will run from 2022 through 2027.
Fermentation is one of the pillars of alternative proteins, next to plant-based and cell-based. They are more than 51 fermentation companies focused exclusively or predominantly on developing alternative proteins using this method
Last summer, California-based startup Perfect Day (the one using microbial fermentation to create dairy-identical products) closed a $300 million Series C round. Over in Belgium, Jaap Korteweg and Niko Koffeman—who sold their meat brand The Vegetarian Butcher to multinational conglomerate Unilever in 2018—launched startup Those Vegan Cowboys with the mission of creating next-level vegan cheese through microbial fermentation.