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Novel alternative protein production: fostering a sustainable future

Research on food industry biotechnologies that can both maximize waste management and recovery of alternative protein production is essential to address the global health “triple burden” of malnutrition: obesity, undernutrition, and micronutrient deficiencies (Obiero et al., 2019). Among the different initiatives that are under development to be aligned to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals proposed by the United Nations (United Nations, 2015), the recovery of alternative protein production stands out as a promising alternative to feed humanity more sustainably. It is in this context that the PROMISEANG project is framed, whose main objective is to develop novel alternative proteins from marine underexploited sources such as marine invertebrates, macroalgae discards, and industrial biowastes, addressing environmental challenges like waste management, resource depletion, and food security.

Sustainable proteins’ quest

The unstoppable growth of the world’s population and the subsequent need for food and protein are reaching unsustainable limits. Traditional protein sources, especially livestock farming, require large amounts of land and water, making them unsustainable feed sources in the long term. As a result, new protein sources can play a vital role in making food supply chains more sustainable. This area includes research into plant proteins, cultured meat, insect, microbial, and macroalgal proteins (Thavamani et al., 2020). Paradoxically, in a world where food scarcity remains prevalent, food waste has gained recognition as an environmental concern.

Unveiling the waste-to-protein alchemy

Although more than three-quarters of studies on novel production focused on protein extraction from insects (Siegrist et al., 2023), certain species of macroalgae, particularly green and red algae, have high-protein content (Gordalina et al., 2021). Of particular note is the utilization of residual biomass, employing advanced technologies to extract food and/or feed-grade protein from organic waste resources, known as the waste-to-protein system (Piercy et al., 2022). Waste-to-protein not only presents environmental benefits over conventional animal or protein sources, particularly in terms of mitigating climate change and reducing the need for arable land, alleviating water scarcity, or reducing energy requirements but also fosters a more circular economy. Likewise, it helps relieve pressure on waste management infrastructure, reduces the release of greenhouse gases linked to organic waste decomposition, and supports biodiversity conservation efforts (Piercy et al., 2022), thus fostering a more sustainable future.


Gordalina, M., Pinheiro, H. M., Mateus, M., da Fonseca, M. M. R., & Cesário, M. T. (2021). Macroalgae as protein sources—a review on protein bioactivity, extraction, purification and characterization. Applied Sciences (Switzerland), 11(17).

Obiero, K., Meulenbroek, P., Drexler, S., Dagne, A., Akoll, P., Odong, R., Kaunda-Arara, B., & Waidbacher, H. (2019). The contribution of fish to food and nutrition security in Eastern Africa: Emerging trends and future outlooks. Sustainability, 11(6), 1636.

Piercy, E., Verstraete, W., Ellis, P. R., Banks, M., Rockström, J., Smith, P., Witard, O. C., Hallett, J., Hogstrand, C., Knott, G., Karwati, A., Rasoarahona, H. F., Leslie, A., He, Y., & Guo, M. (2022). A sustainable waste-to-protein system to maximise waste resource utilisation for developing food- and feed-grade protein solutions. In Green Chemistry (Vol. 25, Issue 3, pp. 808–832). Royal Society of Chemistry.

Siegrist, A., Green, A., Gold, M., & Mathys, A. (2023). Recent findings on environmental sustainability and conversion efficiency of waste-to-protein pathways. In Current Opinion in Green and Sustainable Chemistry (Vol. 41). Elsevier B.V.

Thavamani, A., Sferra, T. J., & Sankararaman, S. (2020). Meet the meat alternatives: The value of alternative protein sources. Current Nutrition Reports, 9, 346–355.

United Nations. (2015). Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. In United Nations: New York, NY, USA.