Some speculation went as far as to predict that if these precision fermentation processes to produce dairy proteins without animals do succeed at scale, much of New Zealand’s animal-based industry could be wiped out in the coming years.
However, the available evidence simply does not support such a conclusion.
The growing global population will continue increasing the demand for quality food proteins into the foreseeable future. This increased demand cannot be met by the existing agriculture production system, nor by new technologies alone.
There is no question that there have been significant advances in technologies such as those in the precision fermentation and alternative protein spaces, and they hold exciting possibilities, including potentially for New Zealand.
However, there are still huge scientific and technological challenges in achieving the nutritional profile and functionality to match those proteins from animal systems.
Typically, in precision fermentation, proteins such as casein or whey obtained from animals are produced instead by encoding dairy protein DNA sequences into microorganisms like yeast or fungi, and then fermenting these in vats or tanks with the relevant nutrients and sugars.
Climate change and other challenges are adding pressure to the global food system. Technology-based solutions therefore can support a global transition towards more sustainable production of protein sources and reduced environmental impact.