Biology

There are numerous aspects to the study of biology which are relevant to developing alternative proteins. Firstly, plant biologists can explore the vast amount of plants and evaluate them on their potential to be used in plant-based products in terms of providing protein, fat, structure, taste, colour, smell, and other attributes. So little research has been done on this meaning there is an untapped potential to create new and novel plant-based products which could be even better than animal products, but we just haven’t discovered them yet. Animal and marine biologists can study the behaviour of various land and aquatic life to better understand their nervous systems and brains (to determine how they think and feel which could be useful for moral weighting) as well as identify what conditions led to illness when they are factory farmed. Human and pathogen biologists can study the transmission and development of zoonotic diseases between animals and humans. Also, they could assess how the use of antibiotics in factory farms will lead to greater human deaths due to antibiotic resistance. Both of these would help to provide stronger justification to health organizations and governments to move towards a future without factory farming. Cell biologists can assist with the development of cellular agriculture into viable products, particularly looking at stem cells and growth media. (Work on seafood and egg alternatives are currently more neglected so working on these products, you would have a greater contribution). A lot of work done by scientists/biologists is in academic research which is very helpful to the cause overall since the results, once published, are open for everyone in the industry to learn from, as opposed to private companies where the research is often confidential.

You can build career capital to get into this area by getting a bachelor’s degree in biology, then a more specific graduate degree or PhD (as having extensive experience with specific scientific methods and tools, data collection and analysis, and extensive knowledge of your field is essential if you are to make any substantial innovation in academia and most companies require this higher level education or 7+ years of experience), doing research during your studies in a relevant lab, and building experience through internships and volunteer projects.


Chemistry and Physics

Chemistry is useful for understanding the behaviour of molecules on a micro level which can be especially beneficial for protein binding and denaturation, fermentation, and other chemical reactions involved in the process of creating alternative proteins. Physics is useful for understanding the development of the structure of ingredients on a macro level for plant-based meat forming/texturizing and scaffolding for cultivated meat as well as the processes and equipment involved in forming these products (i.e. shear cell technology and 3-D printing).

Similar to the biology career path, you can build career capital to get into this area by getting a bachelor’s degree in chemistry or physics, then a more specific graduate degree or PhD (as having extensive experience with specific scientific methods and tools, data collection and analysis, and extensive knowledge of your field is essential if you are to make any substantial innovation in academia and most companies require this higher level education or 7+ years of experience), doing research during your studies in a relevant lab, and building experience through internships and volunteer projects.


Computer Science and Data Analytics

Many people assume that there is little relevance between computer science and factory farming. However, this is not the case as programmers and people with a strong mathematical background are needed to figure out the optimal way to design alternative proteins and the equipment used to make them. Data analysis is used to process the data required for operations, scientific research, or product/business purposes including equipment sensors, bioreactor monitoring, genetic sequencing, etc. Another aspect of this career path is computational modelling which is extremely beneficial for analyzing cell differentiation into tissues and scaffold design for cultivated meat. Even artificial intelligence is useful for assessing numerous combinations of proteins, optimizing ingredients for plant-based meats (i.e. Climax Foods), and other applications which we haven’t thought of yet. Furthermore, creating apps which promote and educate on plant-based eating is another avenue that someone in this field could pursue.

Similar to the biology career path, you can build career capital to get into this area by getting a bachelor’s degree in chemistry or physics, then a more specific graduate degree or PhD (as having extensive experience with specific scientific methods and tools, data collection and analysis, and extensive knowledge of your field is essential if you are to make any substantial innovation in academia and most companies require this higher level education or 7+ years of experience), doing research during your studies in a relevant lab, and building experience through internships and volunteer projects.

You can build career capital to get into this area by learning a programming language, investigating data analysis techniques, and researching modelling applications within alternative proteins.


Food and Nutritional Science

Chefs may say that making food is an art, but actually there is an abundance of science involved. The study of food science consists of how ingredients behave with other ingredients under various conditions, how combinations of ingredients evoke different sensory experiences, and how they can be produced in a safe and quality controlled manner. One of the most important factors consumers consider when purchasing food is taste (which is closely followed by texture). Alternative protein products will only gain consumer acceptance if they can mimic (or even exceed) the animal products which they are aiming to replace in terms of taste and texture. Food scientists are critical to developing alternative proteins such that these products can achieve this goal.

You can build career capital to get into this area by obtaining a degree (preferably a Masters or PhD) in food science or nutritional science, exploring the various taste and texture profiles of animal and alternative protein products (to get a sense of what makes meat taste and feel the way it does and to better understand the sensory reception to non-animal ingredients), and reading academic papers and books related to health and diet (i.e. How Not To Die and The China Study).