by Bruce Friedrich – March 17, 2020
My last trip to India was fifteen years ago Much has changed in the intervening time, and the nine days I spent exploring Mumbai and Bangalore, eating dosas with the GFI India team, and speaking about alternative proteins has made a lasting impression.
I travelled to Mumbai courtesy of TEDxGateway, the largest TEDx event in the world, and, at over 5000 people, definitely the largest audience I have addressed. My talk about plant-based and cultivated meat, and specifically why governments should invest in alternative protein, was very well received. I even convinced Eli Beer (founder of United Hatzalah) to give up meat that very day! #honored
For the developing world at large, public investment in alternative proteins is a smart choice. We have only scratched the surface when it comes to the sector’s promise as a nutrition initiative, a public health mission, and a sunrise industrial sector. Addressing food security and improving nutrition outcomes is a top priority for many nations’ governments and civil societies, and we have found a way to feed our growing population without putting public health or the environment at risk. It starts with plants, cells, or microbes – and GFI is on the front lines of ushering in this much healthier, more sustainable, and more just food system.
I return with immense hope for India. My meetings with investors, entrepreneurs, and policymakers leave me convinced about the transformative potential and counterfactual impact of GFI’s work in India. I spent an afternoon discussing our work and India’s alternative proteins ecosystem with Mrs Poonam Mahajan, a prominent Member of Parliament. The burgeoning interest in smart protein in India is proof that our theory of change resonates with people near and far, now more than ever.
The Indian government’s investment in cultivated meat research at the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology and plans to build a research centre dedicated to cellular agriculture in Maharashtra are laudable necessary steps in the right direction. There is an incredible opportunity in the research, manufacturing, and scaling up of cultivated meat and plant-based meat.
With competitive manufacturing, world-class scientific minds, and excellent universities, India is well-poised to take advantage of this shift in the food system.
Counterintuitively, the needs of a vibrant alt-protein sector are not restricted to more investment flow – any investment in a company merely displaces other investments in a sought after funding round, and helps create IP that is locked in. The current need is more philanthropic funding in the sector, which can also create more direct and attributable impact.
This allows us at GFI to fund open-source science through an international competitive research grants program that can lift the entire sector. Bold philanthropic bets made in India today can build the industrial base around indigenous value chains, catalyse more public funding, and create the ecosystem needed for the food system of the future.
And let’s not forget all that Indian cuisine has to offer! After indulging in incredible dosas in Mumbai and Bangalore, I am very excited about what Indian food innovation can serve up for the global alternative proteins sector.