£15.6 million boost for low-emission food production systems

Innovate UK and BBSRC are backing 32 innovative projects that produce foods in a more environmentally friendly way.

Innovate UK and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) are set to invest £15.6 million in 32 projects as part of the novel low-emission food production systems competition.

Through their strategic partnership, Innovate UK and BBSRC are supporting innovations designed to drive transformation across the food industry to meet the demands of a growing population while promoting health and sustainability.

Revolutionising diets and sustainability

A few of the projects are developing alternative proteins that contribute to a more sustainable and diversified food system.

Alternative proteins, such as plant-based and lab-grown options, place less demand on land and water resources than conventional proteins.

Coupled with the use of novel technologies, they also produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions.

The result is a reduced environmental impact when compared to traditional agriculture production processes.

Enhancing production processes

Many of the funded projects focus on enhancing production processes for cultivated meats to generate future products that are not only high in nutrients but also cost-effective.

Some of the projects also hope to unlock the growth potential of the UK insect farming industry, offering a sustainable approach to help decarbonise livestock production.

Growing up: vertical farming innovations

Several projects will explore vertical farming solutions which offer sustainable and innovative approaches to address challenges related to food production.

The potential benefits include:

  • space and resource efficiency
  • year-round localised production
  • reduced environmental impact

One of the funded projects will develop a small-scale vertical farming model for foods like micro greens and mushrooms.

Another project will create indoor farming systems using advanced technologies to optimise plant health.

Fuelling UK industry growth

To further bolster the alternative proteins sector in the UK, BBSRC and Innovate UK have also launched a new funding opportunity to establish an innovation and knowledge centre (IKC).

This initiative aims to provide vital support for research and innovation in the field of alternative proteins.

The investment will serve as a driving force in fostering collaboration within the community to address a range of research and innovation challenges.

From fundamental discovery research and pre-competitive opportunities to proof-of-concept and commercially-focused activities, the IKC will play a pivotal role in advancing the landscape of alternative proteins in the UK.

Diverse and impactful innovations

Dr Stella Peace, Executive Director for the Healthy Living and Agriculture Domain at Innovate UK, said:

At Innovate UK, our role is to inspire and invest in transformative changes that will future proof food production and manufacturing.

The projects we are supporting showcase the diverse and impactful innovations emerging in the UK’s agri-food sector.

We are excited to see these develop further and look forward to working with them.

Driving the COP28 declaration

Professor Guy Poppy, BBSRC Interim Executive Chair and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Food Sector Champion, said:

It is timely that just days after the UK, along with over 130 countries, signed the COP28 declaration on sustainable agriculture, resilient food systems and climate action, Innovate UK and BBSRC announce their latest strategic bioscience innovation programme investment.

This latest investment by Innovate UK and BBSRC not only marks a step change in the future of food production while addressing the pressing need for sustainable and nutritious food, but it also illustrates UKRI’s ongoing commitment to harnessing the full power of the UK’s research and innovation system to tackle major global challenges.

The 32 projects receiving this latest funding will help pioneer novel low-emission food production systems that are not just environmentally responsible but also economically viable.

Further information

This programme supports two UKRI strategic themes:

  • securing better health, ageing and wellbeing: improve population health, tackle the health inequalities affecting people and communities, and advance interventions that keep us healthier for longer
  • building a green future: accelerate the green economy by supporting research and innovation that unlock solutions essential to achieving net zero in the UK by 2050

Successful projects

Feasibility studies

Tools and technologies for cultured meat production

Project lead: Cell Guidance Systems Limited

Project partners:

  • Aston University
  • MarraBio Limited
  • The University of Manchester
  • Unicorn Biotechnologies Ltd
  • University of Birmingham
  • Zimmer and Peacock Limited

Our project uses complementary technologies from industry and academia to provide solutions for cultivated meat production to deliver low-cost, high nutrient, sustainable protein.

Novel Seaweed Chicken Feed Feasibility (NSCFF)

Project lead: Seaweed Generation Ltd

Project partners:

  • Centre for Innovation Excellence in Livestock Ltd
  • Microgrow Systems Limited
  • Scotland’s Rural College
  • University of West London

Understanding the feasibility of tank or sea cultivated dulse (a protein rich red seaweed) as a practical and cost viable alternative chicken feed.

Next-generation adaptive evolution toolkit to increase protein production in precision fermentation

Project lead: Evolutor Limited

Project partner: The University of Sheffield

Developing a new biological toolkit to unlock the power of evolution in building microbes with maximised protein production capabilities for commercial success.

High potency food grade growth factor mimics for low cost cultivated meat manufacture

Project lead: MarraBio Limited

Project partners:

  • Aelius Biotech Limited
  • Centre for Process Innovation (CPI) Limited

MarraBio makes better ingredients for cultivated meat and are partnering with CPI and Aelius Biotech to improve manufacturing and assess how these ingredients are digested.

Unlocking the next-generation protein expression systems for animal-free cheese production

Project lead: High Efficiency Research Laboratory (HERlab)

Project partner: University of Kent

HERlab is a synthetic biology and artificial intelligence (AI) start-up discovering novel and superior yeasts for scalable precision fermentation.

Investigate the commercial viability of growing alliums in a protected cropping environment

Project lead: Stourgarden Limited

Project partner: University of Essex

Feasibility and optimisation study for modular cricket farming and harvesting system

Project lead: Oko Protein Ltd

Project partners:

  • Food and Drink Forum Limited
  • University of Nottingham
Decarbonisation and decentralisation of synthetic nitrogen fertiliser production

Project lead: Debye Ltd

Project partners:

  • Agri-EPI Centre Limited
  • Crop Health and Protection Limited

Debye aims to empower farmers to locally produce zero carbon nitrogen fertilisers using only air, water and renewable electricity.

InSAFE: securing the future of the UK’s insect farming industry

Project lead: University of Leeds

Project partner: Entocycle Ltd

InSAFE will develop protocols and codes of practice to unlock the growth of the UK insect farming industry and its potential to decarbonise livestock production.

Developing novel animal cell lines and processes incorporating engineered caf1 to scale cultured meat protein manufacturing

Project lead: Unicorn Biotechnologies Ltd

Project partner: MarraBio Limited

Unicorn Biotechnologies is partnering with MarraBio to utilise engineered proteins to ’trick’ arrays of different adherent cell types into growing in suspension in order to improve cultivated meat production.

Mobile artemia production unit: toward sustainable protein production

Project lead: Aquanzo Ltd

Project partner: University of Glasgow

Aquanzo and the Centre for Sensor and Imaging Systems are leading the transition of marine ingredients production from harvesting (fisheries) to sustainable farming through pioneering a modular production system on land.

AdvanceYeastPro-Advanced and sustainable yeast-based novel food, grown in vegetable derived scaffolds for a high-structured and protein rich product

Project lead: University of Leeds

Project partners:

  • AgriFoodX Limited
  • G’s Fresh Limited
Vertical Farming and Storage Technologies (V-FAST)

Project lead: UK Urban AgriTech

Project partners:

  • RheEnergise Ltd
  • The James Hutton Institute
  • Intelligent Growth Solutions

V-FAST is a feasibility study, integrating novel pumped hydro energy storage with vertical farming for scalable, decarbonised business models, with protein-rich crop portfolios.

Stability and shelf life of regenerative raw materials for cultivated meat

Project lead: University of Birmingham

Project partners: Quest Meat Ltd

Global meat consumption is not sustainable, yet could double by 2050, our project will accelerate cost-effective cultivated meat production.

Developing a circular model for low-emission, healthy, total controlled environment agriculture (TCEA) food production

Project lead: Kilnsey Park

Project partners:

  • Biorenewables Development Centre Limited
  • University of York

Kilnsey Park will develop an innovative, small-scale vertical farming model that produces local, healthy and environmentally friendly foods such as micro greens and mushrooms.

BioPro: low emission protein production from anaerobic digestion gases

Project lead: Novatica Technologies Ltd

Project partner: University of Chester

BioPro will develop biomethane-to-proteins technology to achieve UK’s self-sufficiency in animal feed, fostering economic growth and sustainability.

Pulses 4 Foods: pulse-based ingredients for high-protein cheese alternatives

Project lead: Good Pulse Foods Ltd

Project partner: University of Nottingham

Use of crop leaves for high-value animal protein production

Project lead: Kyomei Ltd

Project partner: National Institute of Agricultural Botany

Building UK capability to deliver innovative alternative proteins

Project lead: SPG Innovation Limited

Project partners:

  • Baker Perkins Ltd
  • University of Leeds

This project explores the boundaries of current low emission processes for texturising proteins and the feasibility of alternative technologies to produce alternative proteins.

Industrial research

GyroPlant: making TCEA farms sustainable

Project lead: GyroPlant Ltd

Project partner: Crop Health and Protection Limited

This project will find new ways to integrate our ‘GyroCup’ technology into indoor farming systems; allowing crops to be grown more sustainably at scale.

CLEAN palm: scale-up and genetic tools for sustainable UK palm oil production

Project lead: Clean Food Group (CFG) Limited

Project partner: University of Bath

The project will enable CFG to develop high value microbial oils and accelerate the commercialisation of their technology platform, to help create a more sustainable food production system.

Prototyping and validating novel scalable biomimetic bioreactors for low carbon cultivated meat production

Project lead: CellCraft Ltd

Project partners:

  • The University of Manchester
  • University of Cambridge

This project brings together interdisciplinary expertise to develop novel, low-carbon cultivated meat production systems (bioreactors) to empower food producers, thus improving food security and sustainability.

Protein RecOvery for Food using Ionic Liquid Extraction (PROFILE)

Project lead: Arborea Ltd

Project partners:

  • Imperial College London
  • University of Greenwich

Arborea is collaborating with Imperial College London and University of Greenwich, to develop new functional protein products and capitalise on Arborea’s rapid, low-cost and sustainable technology for the production of high quality proteins.

Nutritional-enhancement of waste and Black Soldier Fly Meal (BSFLM) to make the UK a world-leader in BSFLM industry economics

Project lead: Mana Biosystems Limited

Project partner: Nottingham Trent University

Black soldier fly larvae will be fed food waste that is nutritionally enhanced using nanometre sized natural minerals before being added to poultry feed.

Development of hollow-fibre bioreactor technology to enable resource-efficient cultivated meat production

Project lead: Cellular Agriculture Ltd

Project partner: Campden BRI (Chipping Campden) Limited

Cellular Agriculture and Campden BRI are developing processes to cultivate nutritious animal muscle to reduce carbon, water and land-use; addressing scale, usability and food safety.

Scaling the UK insect protein sector: industrial research for low-emission protein production

Project lead: AgriGrub Ltd

Project partners:

  • Aston University
  • Beta Bugs Ltd

This project will address key barriers to scaling the production of insect protein in the UK to decarbonise food waste and livestock production.

Emerging mycoforestry technology for carbon-negative food production

Project lead: Mycorrhizal Systems Ltd

Project partner: University of Stirling

Growing fungi with living trees allows food production and forestry to occupy the same land, creating a carbon-negative crop with the potential to feed millions.

Harnessing the power of the microbiome to establish world-leading TCEA capacity

Project lead: Concert Bio Ltd

Project partner: Imperial College London

Concert Bio helps soilless growers manage their microbiome and are collaborating with Imperial College London to investigate plant-microbe interactions in hydroponic systems.

Scaling up a novel low-emission fungal fermentation-based production system to commercialise ultra-realistic meat whole-cuts alternatives

Project lead: Adamo Foods Ltd

Project partner: CPI Limited

This new project focuses on scaling up the company’s unique and proprietary fermentation process to produce Adamo’s game-changing whole cuts at high volumes, without compromising on quality.

Advanced Crop Dynamic Control (ACDC) for sustainable leaf protein production in vertical farms

Project lead: LettUs Grow Ltd

Project partners:

  • Crop Health and Protection Limited
  • Fotenix Ltd
  • Perfectly Fresh Ltd
  • Rothamsted Research
  • Vertically Urban Ltd

Developing highly energy-efficient and sustainable indoor farming systems through image-based analysis, AI and software that optimises the growing environment based on plant health.

CULT-GRO: a game-changing growth enhancer to accelerate the affordable scale-up of cultivated meat

Project lead: Quest Meat Ltd

Project partners:

  • Multus Biotechnology Limited
  • University College London (UCL)

The project, led by Quest Meat with Multus Bio and UCL, will create and test novel, all-in-one culture media that contains edible scaffolding for low-cost cultivated meat production.

Revolutionising rice cultivation: a novel low-emission rice line to mitigate agriculture’s environmental carbon dioxide impact

Project lead: Tropic Biosciences UK Limited

Project partner: National Institute of Agricultural Botany

Rice cultivation supports 25% global calories but contributes 23% agriculture-related greenhouse gas emissions. Tropic’s innovations increase yield, reducing emissions per calorie significantly.

Top image:  Credit: MEDITERRANEAN, E+ via Getty Images

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