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The Alternative Products and Proteins Industry is Growing

Monday, August 28, 2023 12:00 AM

By: Annette Baird, project director, and Aaron Jackson, Advanced Manufacturing business development lead


Fast forward 10 years. Salmon, tuna, beef, chicken, bacon and eggs cultivated directly from animal cells may be commonplace, just as plant-based burgers are today. With nearly 10% of the world’s population affected by hunger and finite land and water resources, these sustainable, alternative proteins and products are being developed to mitigate the environmental impacts of food production and support the world’s increasing need for food.  

Alternative proteins expected to make up 11% of the global protein market by 2035, and new companies are rapidly scaling up to meet this demand. In addition to plant-based meat production, more than 150 cultivated meat companies are focused on creating meat and seafood directly from cultured animal cells – similar to the creation of biotechnology products. Other companies are exploring fungi-based leather and insect-based animal feed.

With time to market critical in this innovative, emerging market, the ability to effectively scale fit-for-purpose, cost-competitive designs are key factors for alternative product companies to successfully commercialize.

Scale-up support

Many alternative product companies have proved their first-of-a-kind technologies in the lab or pilot-scale formats. As they work towards commercialization, often at 10 times the scale of the previous proven model, new challenges emerge as biologic processes are tested. 

Having designed and constructed biotech facilities that produce over half of the world’s biotech capacity, Fluor works closely with alternative product companies in the research and development phase, helping validate processes and develop scale-up scenarios. 

For one first-of-a-kind alternative seafood product, Fluor provided technical, automation and construction management support to help the client construct a good manufacturing practices (GMP)-aligned pilot-scale facility. As the company prepares to advance from lab to commercial scale, Fluor has also helped with a study to support project economics, develop scale-up data requirements and establish advancement goals.

As companies prepare to commercialize, Fluor uses its 75 years of biotech and food industry expertise to help companies understand cost and scope of work requirements as they advance. For example, Fluor recently helped a cultivated seafood facility evaluate design parameters for a commercial-scale facility, as well as simulate models for optimal capital and operating costs. 

Fit-for-purpose, cost-competitive designs

From biofuels to vaccines, there is a wide spectrum of engineering and design standards for industrial microbiology facilities. Design requirements vary by product, with some of the most stringent requirements reserved for vaccines and monoclonal antibodies. The targeted geographic market, such as the United States or Europe, also impacts design and construction requirements.

Working on dozens of biotech and food projects over the last 10 years across the globe, Fluor has a deep understanding of the specific regulatory requirements from governmental agencies like the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Fluor helps alternative product manufacturers develop designs that meet all regulatory requirements without unnecessary costs, including a recently designed, commercial-scale plant-based meat facility. The result is a product that can be more competitively priced.

The future for meat and seafood will include many more options for consumers. With unmatched process, design, construction and scale-up expertise, Fluor is proud to support alternative protein and product companies as they strive to offer innovative, sustainable products around the globe.

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