Episode 65: The Alternative Protein Debate: live from Australia's first virtual, national agtech meetup

There is a lot of noise out there about alternative proteins. But what is all the fuss about? What are alternative proteins, and are they going to be a major disrupter to traditional agriculture, or are they an untapped opportunity for the industry?

We know that investments in, and production of, alternative proteins such as insect proteins; meat, dairy, egg and fish analogues; and cultured meat are on the rise, albeit with a very small market share thus far. But will these alternative protein markets continue to grow? If so, at what rate, and is there room for both animal-based and alternative proteins in the Australian market?

Today’s episode tackles these questions and more in a panel discussion, recorded live at Australia’s first national, virtual AgTech Meetup. This meetup brought together Australia’s very vibrant and passionate agtech meetup community, to hear more about the changing landscape of protein production, including the challenges and opportunities for Australian agriculture.

Panelists for the meetup were: Catherine Tubb, Research Fellow at RethinkX; Paul Wood, Chairman at AusBiotech and board member at Dairy Australia; and George Peppou, CEO/Co-founder at VOW.

The three panelists on today's episode have really different backgrounds and perspectives in this space, and the discussion gets quite heated at times. What better way to distract us all from our COVID-19 isolation? There are certainly plenty of contentious points raised and some very strong differing opinions, given how much is still uncertain when it comes to alternative proteins. Let’s face it, the whole concept of alternative proteins has only been on most of our radars for only a few years, so it’s no wonder there are big differences in opinions!

One view raised (and debated) is that disruption of food and agriculture as we know it today is inevitable. A report recently published by RehinkX found that eventually the whole food system will change, and that by 2035, demand for cow products will have shrunk by 80% to 90%. Other livestock markets such as chicken, pig, and fish will follow a similar trajectory. This would obviously have huge implications for agriculture as we know it. You may think that this is quite an extreme perspective, but there are those who strongly believe this will happen. And whether it does or not, it’s important to be across these rapidly evolving spaces.  

The other perspective discussed is that there is room for both traditional protein and  alternative proteins in the Australian production market. The argument for this is that there is growing global demand for protein from a rising population, and therefore, new demand for traditional protein will outweigh any additional market share that alternative proteins may gain in the near future. For more on this refer to the AgriFutures report.

No matter what your view is, there is certainly lots to think about when it comes to alternative proteins, including lot’s opportunities for startups and farmers to think about, so sit back and enjoy the passionate ‘discussions’ on this week's episode!

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