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Wising up to protein sources in Wageningen

Last week, our Market and Technologies Researcher, Natalie Rouse headed to Wageningen, the Netherlands to attend the Foodvalley Summit – The Protein Plan(et). Having touched ground back in the UK, we have been picking her brains to see what her trip entailed and what we can take from her time in Wageningen…

Foodvalley Summit, The Protein Plan(et), Wageningen

The purpose

To summarise, the purpose of the summit was to discuss and evaluate where we’re at with protein innovation, research and where we are heading in regard to research and commercial innovation. Sounds intense, right?

Natalie explains that her goal at the event was to identify what areas require innovation and research and how can this be implemented in the Welsh and UK markets. So, if you’re thinking about protein innovation for your business, keep reading this blog.

Sustainability, nutrition and feasibility are always at the forefront of our minds and we wanted to explore whether tour projects here in Wales align with what’s going on in other countries.

The event looked at a balance in protein consumption, to have an equal consumption of animal and vegetable protein. The aim of the event was to strengthen connections between those who produce meat, fish, dairy (alternative) and vegetables in order to seek new business partners. Within the program there are three elements: The Bigger Picture, The Consumer Perspective and Growing, Breeding, Soil.

The Bigger Picture

Giving a holistic view of protein transition, current national and international challenges were highlighted. Experts in the field were also discussing the National Protein Plan, and how the Netherlands can contribute towards European protein targets.

The Consumer Perspective

Another angle of the summit was a discussion into how to tempt consumers into consuming more vegetable protein. Can sufficient substitutes be produced for cheese and fish whilst caring for the environment? This element also examines behavioural change whilst considering consumer food routines.

Growing, breeding, soil

What protein-rich crops would grow successfully in our climate? Are there any new and innovative crops being developed? Protein transition means consuming more vegetable protein and being able to produce it locally. The focus of this theme is plants, soil, animals and biodiversity.

What Natalie thought…

Having listened to nearly 20 speakers over the day, including Louise Fresco, President of the Wageningen University & Research Executive Board and McDonalds and Sara Eckhouse of Foodshot Global, Natalie had many thoughts to gather!

It seems that the main theme of the conference was that banning meat and animal products is not the solution and a more circular approach is needed. Hunger and consumption is happening simultaneously worldwide, yet we produce 200 million tonnes of protein a year – enough to feed 9 billion people.

According to research undertaken by Wageningen University, 100% vegan agriculture would create large streams of waste and would not be sustainable. Although the UK is desperate for anything vegan right now, it may be a better idea to utilise what we already have more efficiently.

The ocean makes up 85% of our planet but we only source 7% of our protein from there. Chris Ker of Good Catch believes we can use our oceans more efficiently.

It is evident that we are not short of protein, whether it be from an animal or a plant, but what is clear is that we do not utilise crop waste as well as we could, An example of this would be Sugar beet farmers. Sugar beet leaves would be considered as crop waste, however, these leaves contain Robisco, a great source of protein that largely goes to waste at present.

Natalie goes on to explain:

“I personally wanted to gain a deeper knowledge to the jigsaw that can aid a successful shift to make a more sustainable, acceptable and workable protein sources that is also economically sensitive…the planet must come first as without a planet we have nothing”

If you would like more information or are interested in getting involved, get in touch!

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