Challenge seeks source code for plant-based meat

Big data, AI and machine learning have largely been built on open-source software. This concept of open innovation — or industry-wide access to the same source or recipe of any given work — is now coming to the plant-based sector to spark even greater change, much faster.

“What are the plant-based source codes and why do we need them?” says Monjur Hossen, a principal product development specialist with Kellogg’s. “The answer is, simply, comparability.”

Hossen and Alexander Lamm, principal food technologist with International Flavors & Fragrances, are leaders of the Meat-Free Challenge 2025, a project that’s part of Bridge2Food’s Global Plant-Based Foods & Proteins EcoSystem.

Meat-Free Challenge

They want to harness the power of the ecosystem’s 110 organizations and 300 experts — plus others — to close the functionality gap between animal and plant-based meat by 2025. You can connect to join the ecosystem here.

The main aim of the challenge is to improve functions such as cookability, cutability, bite, color, taste and aroma. The backbone of the project will be the plant proteins. Studies will range from six months to several years.

“We will determine the functionality gap and identify the plant proteins best suited to close the gap,” says Hossen. They are starting with pea, fava, bean, oat, nuts and soy. But they are not excluding any plant proteins and will look at possible blends with mycoproteins and single cells.

“We welcome all research,” says Hossen. “No one knows everything so we can all work together to solve this problem.”

Lamm says he sees it as a cookbook that is nice and simple, providing standardization and proven recipes for whatever is required — soy burger, pea burger, frozen burger, etc. Then a fair comparison can be done and it’s easy to experiment by swapping out one or two ingredients.

This open collaboration will also allow for much faster and fairer testing if everyone starts with the same source code or recipe. “It’s easy to use, everybody is on the same level and talking the same language,” says Hossen. “It helps all parties involved.”

It will also be easier if a new ingredient needs to be found.

“We know one single protein will not be able to do everything,” says Hossen.

“How do we encourage the research so we can come up with different protein systems?”

The Meat-Free Challenge launched Oct. 19 at the Bridge2Food Plant-Based Foods & Proteins Research Conference, and going forward food scientists, ingredient companies, food manufacturers, technology firms, crop companies, farmers and others all along the value chain can get more information and ask to participate by reaching out to Bridge2Food. They can also ask Bridge2Food for assistance in getting industry partners on board for a specific research call with (national) funding.