UC Berkeley Challenge Lab Encourages Students to Develop New Plant-Based Meats

UC Berkeley Challenge Lab Encourages Students to Develop New Plant-Based Meats

Have you ever wondered where some of the most successful entrepreneurs got their start? Behind every entrepreneur is the idea that sparked their success.

At the UC Berkeley Sutardja Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology, a team of highly qualified instructors, mentors, and industry leaders are working together to spark the imaginations of young entrepreneurs to contribute to the rapidly expanding plant-based meat industry.

UC Berkeley, in partnership with The Good Food Institute, launched this groundbreaking, first-of-its-kind “Challenge Lab” course last month. The Good Food Institute is a nonprofit organization that promotes, supports, and develops plant-based alternatives to meat, dairy, and eggs. The main objective of the Challenge Lab is to lead students to develop a new plant-based product that can ultimately be successful in the real world.

Throughout the Challenge Lab, students will learn to identify opportunities in the food industry through hands-on research of current trends and technologies to develop a product that addresses specific consumer needs, such as texture, taste preferences, and accessibility of plant-based meat analogs.

Additionally, students will learn about protein sources, methods for extracting protein from plants, and “texturization,” which is the process that transforms plant protein into a form with the texture and mouthfeel of meat. The teams will then design a brand new product that addresses specific consumer needs and interests to replace animal meat in the marketplace.

Throughout the course, highly qualified mentors will help coach the teams through the research and development process. At the conclusion of the semester, the teams will present their business models for a chance to win a $5,000 cash prize and further mentorship to put their vision into motion.

This course is led by Prof. Ricardo San Martin, a visiting professor at UC Berkeley with a background in chemical engineering and a Ph.D. in Biotechnology. This course is being co-taught by Prof. Anne Fletcher. Professor Fletcher is a Stanford University graduate with degrees in Mechanical Engineering and Product Design and has lectured at Stanford in Mechanical Engineering for more than ten years. Christie Lagally, Senior Scientist at GFI, lectures and works with collaborators to facilitate this increasingly relevant and engaging course.

Some of the collaborators working on this course include: Renee Loux, Co-Founder of BeyondBrands/Co-CEO and Global Brand Manager of SEACO, Michael Spinelli, Co-Founder and CTO of Nutriati, Inc., and Kristie Middleton, Senior Food Policy Director for The Humane Society of the United States.

Following the debut of the Challenge Lab, UC Berkeley and GFI launched a second course, specifically focused on plant-based seafood! The Good Food Institute plans to partner with more universities in the future to pave the way for the next big thing in the plant-based meat industry.

As a Science and Technology Fellow for The Good Food Institute, I have had the privilege to work behind the scenes to help organize this course. As a vegan, animal rights activist, and educator, I can say without a doubt that the public’s demand for healthy, environmentally-friendly, and humane food options is on the rise, and this Challenge Lab could not have come at a better time.

The next time you bite into a new vegan menu item at a local restaurant or pick up a plant-based meat substitute at the grocery store, it may very well have been developed at the first ever Plant-Based Meat Challenge Lab!

Are you ready for the future of food? Here’s just one example of how food technology is already changing the world:

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