The funding will go towards Catalonia’s Center for Innovation in Alternative Proteins (CiPA), which is based at various centres around the region. It will run for four years.
A growing market
Spain is Europe’s fourth-largest market for plant-based food. The market grew 9% year-on-year between 2020 and 2022, eventually reaching €447.4m.
The investment will help improve the market further. CiPA will build essential infrastructure including pilot plants and research facilities, which will allow startups to test and develop their products using not only specialist equipment, but also provided expertise.
As well as focusing on plant-based meat, the funding will help scale up research into fermentation-made food, and how this can be used to help reduce food waste by transforming agricultural surplus into food. This could also provide farmers with new revenue.
It will also help Spain reach its climate targets. Replacing traditional animal agriculture with plant-based meat, according to the Good Food Institute (GFI), has the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 98%, land use by 93% and water use by 99%.
The lack of antibiotics in the production of plant-based meat also reduces the chance of superbugs developing compared with traditional meat. More than half of Europe’s antibiotics are fed to farm animals, according to the GFI.
“This landmark announcement is a major step towards turning Catalonia into one of Spain’s leading hubs for sustainable plant-based and fermentation-made foods,” said Alex Holst, senior policy manager at the Good Food Institute Europe.
“The region is already home to pioneering alternative protein companies, but this investment will help develop a vibrant Catalan sector capable of producing delicious, affordable foods for the growing alternative protein market, generating highly skilled jobs and export opportunities.”
The funding stems from the Department of Climate Action, Food and Rural Agenda of the Generalitat of Catalonia and the Institute of Agri-Food Research and Technology (IRTA).
Catalonia and plant-based meat
CiPA is a research institution focusing on plant-based foods, that aims to “promote research and technological development in the area of agri-food, to facilitate the transfer of scientific advances and to evaluate its own technological advances.”
Before the launch of the CiPA, there was no infrastructure for research into alternative proteins, with special unique equipment, combining laboratory research and pilot plants, in Catalonia or Spain as a whole.
The CiPA will be distributed throughout Catalonia, but most of its equipment will be at the IRTA Monells Center in Girona, Northern Catalonia.
As well as precision fermentation, the centre will also focus on the production of biomass.