Estonian scientists make it to the finals of prestigious XPRIZE competition with salmon made from peas
Scientists from the Estonian Center of Food and Fermentation Technologies (TFTAK) have made it to the final six of the global XPRIZE Feed the Next Billion competition and continue to develop plant-based salmon using local raw materials, pea protein, to create sustainable and tasty food. TFTAK is located at Tehnopol Science and Business Park and they are the member of Tehnopol led Connected Health Cluster.
According to Dr. Sirli Rosenvald, Head of Meat Alternatives and Plant Proteins at TFTAK, reaching the final stage of the XPRIZE competition is a tremendous recognition for our scientists’ long-standing dedicated work, as they compete against other teams for the $15M prize.
“For the last few years, we have been developing technologies in the TFTAK research laboratory to create textures from plant-based protein that imitate various animal-based foods. We have already brought several plant-based minced meat products to market and are now focusing on the more complex challenge of developing fillet products. We have taken a step forward by creating a pea protein-based product that has a texture similar to salmon fillet,” said Rosenvald.
As demand for meat increases with the world’s growing population, XPRIZE Feed the Next Billion seeks to more sustainable and versatile alternative meat products capable of competing with conventional products on the market. Research groups around the world are developing meat alternatives from plant-based sources, using preferred local raw materials, such as oats, beans, and peas, for example, in Estonia. With technology developing, the first fillet-like products can already be found on supermarket shelves.
“We are genuinely happy and proud of reaching the finals. Competing with the world’s top food innovators and being among the final six shows the excellence of our researchers and the research facilities,” says TFTAK CEO Martin Lall. Lall adds that participating in a competition of this caliber and making it this far shows TFTAK’s dedication to creating more sustainable food systems with innovative food technologies. “We can say that TFTAK is a world-class food innovation center.”
Rosenvald’s research group, consisting of six young dedicated Estonian food scientists with an average age of 30, submitted an application for the XPRIZE competition in December 2020, and the final event will take place next year.
Sirli Rosenvald notes, “We have just over a year to further develop our product. We have ideas, and now we can bring our knowledge into reality. Of course, we are working towards presenting the plant-based salmon fillet we developed at the final next year, and we hope to share more good news about our research.”
TFTAK’s goal is for the salmon fillet alternative created as a result of the competition to come to market as a real product, under the brand of either a local Estonian or foreign company.
To qualify for the final stage of the XPRIZE competition, each team had to submit samples of their alternative salmon fillet to the Judging Panel, the competition’s independent evaluation committee. These samples underwent thorough analysis and were evaluated based on nutritional value, texture, their environmental impact and economic potential. Additionally, during the semi-finals, the team had to serve the samples to the judges for evaluation of their similarity to real salmon.
Dr. Sirli Rosenvald and team member Mark Rohtaru from TFTAK represented the team successfully in the semi-finals testing in Abu Dhabi, and they will be traveling to Singapore in the second half of May for the grand recognition ceremony for the finalists.
XPRIZE is a global future-positive movement delivering truly radical breakthroughs for the benefit of humanity. XPRIZE inspires and empowers a global community of problem-solvers to positively impact our world by crowdsourcing solutions through large-scale competitions, tackling the world’s grandest challenges in exploration, environment, and human equity. Donate, learn more or join a team at xprize.org. For more information about XPRIZE Feed the Next Billion visit xprize.org/feed
TFTAK is the top center for biotechnology and food science in Estonia, with over 100 scientists working there. Currently, the work is divided among six strong research directions, and cooperation is carried out with many Estonian, as well as increasingly more foreign companies and research organizations. The TFTAK research laboratory was founded in 2004 and is located in the Tehnopol Science and Business Park in Tallinn. For more information about TFTAK: https://www.tftak.eu/