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Bid for CRC for Alternate Proteins aims to capture billion-dollar benefits

Words by Judy Kennedy

Rapid growth in the global demand for protein to feed the world’s burgeoning population is driving a bid to establish a Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) for Alternate Proteins in Australia. The opportunity exists for additional partners to join the bid and partner to develop solutions to enhance value, develop new protein production systems, new protein foods and ingredients, functionality, sustainability and capacity of this rapidly expanding sector.

CSIRO’s 2022 Protein Road Map estimates that by 2030, the Australian market for plant-based protein alone will be worth $9 billion and precision fermented proteins $2.2 billion.

And a 2020 report by the food and agribusiness growth centre, FIAL, estimated that Australia’s alternate protein sector could capture $5 billion in value-added opportunities and create 6,000 new jobs in the same time frame.

Alternate proteins are complementary protein foods and ingredients that are produced from plants, pulses, algae, fungi, hemp, insect, cultured and fermented and are complementary to animal proteins. 

Innovation necessary to capitalise on growth

Related organisations

Logo for Alt Protein CRC
Multiple industries

Alt Protein CRC

The Alt Protein CRC is a collaboration between industry, research partners and government to develop an alternate protein food and ingredient industry in Australia.
  • Location

    New South Wales, Australia

  • Organisation type

    Industry consultant, Public research organisation, Research service providers

Bid leader Dr Geoffrey Annison, food industry scientific, technical and regulatory policy expert, says a CRC for Alternate Proteins is necessary if the sector is to capitalise on growing local and global and markets.

“A CRC will bring together the capability of Australia’s multiple research organisations in partnership with industry to solve the barriers and challenges that will unlock the complementary protein sector growth.”

“It requires substantial innovation throughout the sector to deliver on the promise of quality, health, food safety and sustainability, coupled with high quality taste and flavour that meet market and consumer expectations,” Geoffrey said.

CRC grants provide funding for medium to long-term collaborative research and education programs to improve the competitiveness, productivity and sustainability of Australian industry.

Cohort seeks partners to meet budget target

The bid brings together a cohort of around 60 groups from the tertiary and industry sector including the CSIRO and is currently seeking industry and research partners with a total budget target of $100-120 million over 10 years.

Professor Brent Kaiser from the University of Sydney, also a bid leader, says the Federal Government generally supplies CRCs with a budget of $50-$60 million over a 10-year window, and the group is confident it can source the balance from industry and the universities.

“We’re looking for a range of investors to fund small to large projects, from $1 million dollars a year over 10 years ranging down to $100,000 or $50,000 a year, depending on the scale of investment they want,” Brent said.

“The CRC for Alternate Proteins will focus on the entire supply chain, from primary production from crops to protein concentrates, through the food formulation process, to retail logistics and consumer marketing.

The growth of the sector will demand increased collaboration between agricultural producers and upstream manufacturers to ensure that end products will be proteins with the right technical functionalities, with high levels of digestibility and bioavailability, and most importantly, have high taste desirability profiles when incorporated into consumer food products.

Our aim is to develop an ecosystem for the protein food sector which coordinates and invests in transformational research to accelerate the industry’s progression. In doing so we will develop new supply chains, new business opportunities to value add products derived from plants, bacteria, yeast, fungi, algae, insects or cellular agriculture technologies. 

“The CRC will support the ongoing need to educate consumers around the need and quality of complementary proteins. Similarly our research outcomes will inform the future regulatory frameworks to ensure that new products receive regulators’ ticks of approval as being sustainable, safe and nutritious. 

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Program seeks to train skilled workforce to solve shortage

The industry currently has a workforce shortage. The role of the CRC will be to build the future workforce for tomorrow. A wider range of education opportunities need to be employed to attract future workers. Strategies at all levels of the education system need to be deployed to enable this to occur. 

“The skills shortage is probably the greatest limitation to Australia’s complementary protein industry growing quickly and there is a global shortage in this area. If you’re a protein technologist working anywhere in the world you are hot property right now –  we’re seeing a lot of staff movements between companies and research organisations,” Brent said.

“Hopefully in the next five or ten years we’ll have a new cohort of trained experts in these companies allowing them to expand and grow.”

Who can participate and collaborate for impact?

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“Our partners range from international players to domestic companies, from small SME-type corporations that are starting out in this space to more established companies that are now diversifying their product lines to incorporate complementary protein food products,” Brent said.

“We also have industry partners that are providing specialised services for the R&D questions that we need to ask, like data analytics or companies involved in digital tracking of foods, those involved with marketing, and engineering companies who want to build infrastructure and manufacturing capability.

“The CRC for Alternate Proteins is effectively establishing a network of like-minded companies that have the same interest, allowing them to come together and make something more established and productive instead of trying to achieve that singularly.”

Alternate proteins offer grains industry new options

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Brent says the industry just needs a ‘helping hand’ to push it forward.

As a plant scientist, he would also like to see the new CRC assist with transitioning Australia’s grains industry from being commodity export-driven to value-adding production of protein and food.

“Complementary proteins offers a new opportunity to help Australia’s agriculture and food manufacturing sector to move in a different direction, to be more responsive to the market and benefit from the scale and returns you get from this increase in value,” he said.

“Australia’s agriculture and food industry has always been innovative and this is another step along that path. I think the opportunities are there, the interest is there, which is culminating in investment into the sector”

First stage applications close on the Tuesday, 7 March 2023, with selected bids advancing to Stage 2 around June 2023. If funding is approved, the CRC for Alternative Protein will commence operation on Monday, 1 July 2024.

If you are an industry or research organisations interested in the Australian complementary protein food sector and wanting to join this CRC bid, you can find out more about this opportunity here.

If you want to talk to our team, send us an enquiry via our general enquiry form here.