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State-owned nonprofit VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland and the University of Helsinki have recently received €2.1 million (US$2.3 million) in funding from the public innovation fund Business Finland. The money will go towards the EXPRO Project, a co-innovation initiative that aims to develop plant-based proteins from native crops and propel Finland as a leader in the fast-growing industry.
Started last month, the EXPRO co-innovation project will see the VTT Technical Research Centre and the University of Helsinki work with startups and companies across the plant-based supply chain. The mission of the initiative is to boost the Finnish plant-based food industry with an eye to position the country as a leading vegan protein exporter.
Some of the industry partners already involved in the project include Helsinki-based Gold&Green Foods, a food tech creating climate-smart plant-based protein from Nordic oats and legumes, food manufacturer and grain miller West Mills, and domestic foodservice giant Fazer.
“The Finnish food industry is in a unique position to take the lead in the transition towards a more plant-based food system in-line with the national and European targets,” said EXPRO project leader Nesli Sözer in a statement.
“Strong consumer engagement is essential to develop not only sustainable but also appealing products in terms of taste and mouthfeel. That is what we are striving for in the EXPRO project”.
To solidify Finland’s position and bolster its export potential in the global plant-based protein market – which some analysts say will explode to reach US$21 billion by 2025 – the project plans to work on creating proprietary plant-based ingredients, meat substitute products and technology licensing.
Among the domestic crops targeted for valorisation include faba beans, rapeseed and oats, which can be used in novel food technologies such as combined wet extrusion and bioprocessing in order to create next-generation alternative meats.
Scientists have reiterated that transforming our global food system is crucial if we are to sustain a planet of 10 billion people by 2050. Traditional animal agriculture is at the crux of the broken food system, with the industry responsible for almost a fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions and other ecologically damaging practices such as deforestation, not to mention the public health dangers associated with industrial animal farming.
According to global scientific experts, almost 70% of all emerging human diseases have originated from animals – it is clear that deforestation and biodiversity loss, driven by intensive farming and uncontrolled agriculture and the exploitation of wildlife is increasing the threat of deadly diseases.
The current coronavirus crisis has further amplified calls to move away from animal proteins, especially as news of global slaughterhouse outbreaks dominate headlines, prompting consumers to choose safer, healthier and more sustainable plant-based alternatives.
Finland’s plant-based funding news comes fresh on the heels of Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau’s announcement that the government is making a CAD$100 million investment into Merit Functional Foods, a plant-based ingredient manufacturer.
Lead image courtesy of Gold&Green Foods.