Representative Subtheme Challenge:

FAI-04: Biomanufacturing Alternative Proteins and Other Agriculturally-derived Bioproducts

Imagine a bustling urban farmers' market, where agricultural engineers showcase their latest marvels: nutritionally enhanced plant-based proteins and lab-cultivated meats, packaged in sustainable materials. These sustainable food innovations, born from a synergy of agricultural engineering and biotech, have reshaped our diets and food systems. The market buzzes with activity, reflecting a world where the engineering of food has not only brought diverse, nutritious options to our tables but has also sparked a green revolution in agriculture. Here, the blend of technology and nature offers a promising future, illustrating how targeted engineering and biotech efforts have shifted the course of our food industry towards sustainability and abundance.

The increasing global demand for nutritious food and novel materials amidst growing environmental concerns opens the door for a shift towards biomanufactured, alternative proteins and ingredients. Animal stem cell lines are being explored to produce cell-cultured meat, seafood, and proteins while engineering biology principles are being tested to fabricate micronutrients, amino acids, vitamins, additives, and other high value food and feed ingredients. Challenges include adapting to diverse consumer demands for taste, texture, and nutritional value, scaling production, and navigating regulatory landscapes. Advances in this field promise healthier protein sources, contributing significantly to nutrition security. In the same way, novel biomanufacturing approaches can deliver new biomaterials with novel properties, or replace existing processes that depend on non-renewable resources. This transformation is crucial, as traditional agricultural practices face escalating pressures from climate change, resource scarcity, and a growing population.

CASA-Bio stakeholders representing government, industry, and non-profit sectors, identified areas of mutual interest where concerted effort among them may lead more quickly to the realization of the envisioned future. These are a few of their ideas. Research is needed across the three production platforms of plant-based, fermentation-derived and cultivated meat proteins as well as the development of hybrid products to meet nutritional, taste and texture needs at scale. Critical research areas include enhancing the nutritional quality, efficiency, and yield of plant-based proteins, as well as industrial products and materials. Understanding the sensory properties critical to consumer acceptance, developing cost-effective production technologies, and improving protein extraction processes are vital. Further, expanding protein sources beyond traditional crops and animals to algae and microorganisms, coupled with biotechnological innovations, can unlock new possibilities in food production. Likewise, research on use of abundant biomass resources such as lignocellulose from woody biomass can unlock the ability to create novel materials that could be used in construction, packaging, and medical products. Collaboration between academia, industry, and regulatory bodies is essential for translating these advancements into market-ready solutions for diverse global needs. We emphasize that this list is not comprehensive; we need you to help us think deeper within this subtheme!

As a member of the R&D community, you too are a CASA-Bio stakeholder, and providing your insight on R&D projects that undergird this sub-theme and lead to solutions is critical. Your ideas will matter! Your individual project ideas and those developed as part of the collaborative Town Hall process will be combined to produce an aggregate view. This view will help us understand not only the interests of the R&D community, but also what they are willing to do to advance the bioeconomy. Topics among the R&D project ideas we receive will help government, industry, and non-profit stakeholders see the potential of the US R&D community to address critical future needs and help define topics for future exploration through workshops and roadmapping.

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CASA-Bio is based upon work supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation under Contract No. 49100423P0058. Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material do not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. National Science Foundation.
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