New Frontiers research funds to improve plant proteins, to study environmental impacts of urban migration
Two land and food systems scientists have won New Frontiers in Research Fund Explorations awards, an award stream that focuses on fast-breaking, high-risk research that is international and interdisciplinary. These projects have been funded for two years, with the possibility of extension for a third year.
Plant proteins as an alternative to meat ($250,000)
Assistant Professor Derek Dee is a food scientist who has been studying how proteins behave under different conditions. With the burst of interest in plant proteins, he will research the behavior of soy, pea, lentil and peanut proteins to see how they can be developed to replace meat proteins. His goal is to create a texture from plant proteins that is satisfying and mimics the experience of eating meat.
His project combines biophysics and food science. Under certain conditions, protein molecules can self-assemble into nanofibrils (long, thin strands of 1000s of protein molecules), with different fibril types formed under different conditions. Plant proteins and nanofibrils are complex structures, and fundamental questions need to be answered to develop new plant protein ingredients. As people are seeking alternatives to animal protein to improve their health and the sustainability of their diet, plant proteins are being advanced to help meet this demand.