Wageningen University: Yeast-produced milk-fat alternative wins the Rethink Protein Student Challenge

Team Cultivated won the Grand Finale of the Rethink Protein Challenge with their dairy-fat alternative produced with precision yeast fermentation. They won in the most demanding category, Prototyping, and were awarded the prize money of €6000. AlgO won in the Ideation category with their idea to cultivate microalgae on waste-streams. They were awarded €3000. Both teams will also receive professional support to further develop their projects for real impact on the world protein supply.

In an exciting, live streamed Grand Finale, the jury finally chose Cultivated as the winner in Prototyping category, although it was a very hard choice. The jury, consisting of high-level representatives from companies like Lely and DSM, said that their product, which is not in itself a protein, was ‘very relevant to enabling the protein transition’ and could be a ‘game changer’. Cultivated’s product would serve to improve dairy alternatives by supplying a milk-fat substitute. AlgO, the winner of the Ideation category, ‘nailed it!’ Their idea for a portable facility ‘offers a lot of flexibility’, according to the jury. ‘You can bring it anywhere the waste-stream is.’

On-line audience voted for their favourite contestant. With 53% of the votes, Blue Chitin became the crowd favourite out of the total of six winners in both categories, with their feed additive for fish feed made with waste from the shrimp industry.

40% more protein by 2050
Wageningen University & Research (WUR) organized the Rethink Protein Student Challenge for the second time, as a way to ask students from all over the world how they would tackle the protein transition. Researchers at WUR estimate that the world will need 40% more protein by 2050, which is why the world will need new sources of protein that are healthy, affordable and sustainable. Other winners in the Grand Finale proposed to source insects for protein, or to use the by-products of existing industries, like tomato-seeds. Two teams proposed to genetically engineering yeast-organisms to produce protein for dairy-alternatives.

The teams were challenged to think of more than just new proteins. They will need to show that a market exists for their innovation and how it will positively impact the world. To this end, contestants in the Ideation category presented a well elaborated, concrete business proposal. The contestants in the Prototyping went one step further. They showed the judges a complete business plan and a minimal viable product, which is an example of the products their innovation makes possible. Take team Sahara’s cricket-based meal box, which won them third place.

Comments are closed.