Innovation That Matters

Protera guard has anti-mould properties that make baked good last longer | Photo source Protera

Using AI to build animal-free proteins and preservatives

Food & Drink

The algorithm copies the structure of natural proteins to form new ingredients

Spotted: Lab-grown food is no longer science fiction. As alternatives to traditionally farmed ingredients, cultured meats can replace almost any animal product with a more sustainable version. Now, Chilean biotech startup Protera is using artificial intelligence (AI) to copy the amino acid structures of naturally occurring proteins – such as those in flowers. Once a complete protein is built, the company uses fermentation to produce the ingredient at scale.

Fermentation produces the proteins much faster than a farmer can grow a crop or raise an animal, and in much less space. Far fewer resources are used, and emissions are much lower than in traditional agriculture. Since the proteins are exact copies of naturally occurring ones, they can be used as direct substitutes for a number of ingredients, including palm oil, chemically hydrogenated fats, and additives that extend the long-term shelf life of foods.

Currently, the company has four proteins in pilot or development stages. Protera Guard is a protein with anti-mould properties designed specifically to help make baked goods last longer on shelves. Protera Sense is a plant-based oil used for texture in foods as an alternative to dangerous trans-fats and palm oil. Antioxidant and foaming and emulsifying proteins are two others that are also being developed, with the foaming version capable of being used as an egg replacement.

Springwise has spotted a number of developments in the cultured food industry, with fermentation replicating the tasty fats from animal meat for better tasting plant-based meat and dairy substitutes, and a new molecular process turning plant crop cells into dairy proteins. 

Written by: Keely Khoury



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