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At the Smart Protein Summit 2022, startups supported by MS Dhoni, Anushka-Virat, and other future food stakeholders will gather

Organized by the Good Food Institute India and FICCI, the Summit saw participation from representatives of the embassies of the Netherlands, Israel, and Canada, educational institutions, companies such as Licious, Blue Tribe Foods, pioneering investors, and others

New Delhi: Yesterday marked the conclusion of the Smart Protein Summit 2022, organized by the Good Food Institute India (GFI India), the central expert organization and convening body in the ‘smart protein’ sector, in collaboration with the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI). The Summit was supported by the Ministry of Food Processing Industries (MoFPI), The Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA), and India’s Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) Eat Right India initiative. 

For five years now, the Smart Protein Summit has served as a platform to bring together a wide range of stakeholders, all committed to transforming our protein supply by focusing on creating an enabling environment for smart protein. The 2022 Summit spanned two days, with 80+ speakers, 13-panel discussions, 8 curated roundtables, a plant-based tasting tour, an ecosystem networking event, and much more. 

With the dual intention of building partnerships and propelling the industry forward, the Summit saw over 550 participants attend. It had every major player in the room – from Blue Tribe Foods, Shaka Harry, Licious, Greenest and other pioneering smart protein companies to leading investors, including Magnetic, Brinc, and CIIE.CO, Beyond Impact, and more. Heads of research institutions, government and industry bodies such as The Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA), The National Institute of Food Technology Entrepreneurship and Management (NIFTEM), Food Industry Capacity & Skill Initiative (FICSI), The Centre for Cellular & Molecular Biology (CCMB) as well as young changemakers, students, and innovators took centre stage at the Summit.

The Smart Protein Summit 2022 was designed by GFI India and FICCI to propel India to the forefront of the global race for smart protein innovation. Following the inaugural address, Deloitte India partners, AnandRamanathan and Varun Deshpande unveiled topline numbers on the market size and export potential of smart protein from a rigorous study by GFI India and Deloitte India. The study projects that smart protein’s total economic opportunity (both domestic market size and exports) in 2030 is estimated to be INR 33,194 crore (USD 4.2 billion) in a high-growth scenario. 

Building on this, Varun Desphande, President of GFI Asia emphasized the need to become AatmaNirbhar in smart protein and said, “India has crop diversity, a globally competitive talent pool, and hundreds of people working on this opportunity – which can create immense job opportunities across the value chain, and GFI India and Deloitte India’s modeling shows that the total number of jobs created by smart protein industry in 2030 ranges from 1,51,025 in a low growth scenario to 4, 27,985 jobs in a high growth scenario.”

All stakeholders present recognized the work to be done in order to actualize these targets. Focusing on the immense opportunity, leading entrepreneurs and investors both emphasized the importance of building high-fidelity smart protein products – plant-based or cultivated meats that look, cook, taste, and sizzle like conventional animal-derived protein. While the industry is still a sunrise sector in India, AnandNagarajan, Co-Founder, Shaka Harry, the smart protein startup that just signed on MS Dhoni as an investor and ambassador, encouraged the sector to play on the front foot. He said, “We’re in it for the long haul even if there are blips or market corrections. Technology stocks also lost 40% of their valuations this year, but nobody said the internet is dead. We need to be bold and break out into the mainstream.”

Speaking at a panel on nurturing biotech to mega-scale, ShubhankarTakle, Co-founder, MyoWorks expressed, “I’m very excited and bullish about cultivated meat – I think it will be a paradigm shift.” Incidentally, in 2019, MyoWorks had participated in the Innovators Showcase at GFI India’s flagship event, pitching to a panel of investors that featured ShreyanshSinghal, VP of Investments, Ankur Capital. Three years in, as Ankur Capital invests seed capital in MyoWorks, it is heartening to see them both return to the Summit and lead the conversation on the need for deep science funding.

In a similar vein, Dr. Ravishankar CN, Director, ICAR-Central Institute of Fisheries Education in his key address, underscored that cultivated meat is a future food technology that can serve as a viable alternative to animal-derived protein. “Land is shrinking. Resources are limited,” he said, highlighting the urgency of transitioning to more sustainable sources of proteins. Dr. Ravishankar also touched upon the regulatory pathways that need to be created for new food tech innovations.

On day one of the Summit we heard both Siraj Hussain, FICCI Advisor and former Secretary, MoFPI& Agriculture, Government of IndiaandSirajAzmat Chaudhry, Past Chair, National Committee on Food Processing, FICCI, Former Chairman, Cargill India, and MD & CEO, NCML iterate the need to localize the supply chain. Quoting a popular idiom, Siraj A Chaudhary quipped, “They say ‘gharkimurgi dal barabar‘ and now we have dals and pulses coming back to compete with meat!” 

While the smart protein ecosystem has grown at a remarkable rate over the last five years, very little has happened in the direction of building the necessary talent in this area. To address this, the Summit hosted dedicated roundtables and sessions on building the talent pool, with heads of universities such as NIFTEM, Gujarat Biotechnology University, TransDisciplinary University (TDU), and skilling bodies such as the Food Industry Capacity & Skill Initiative (FICSI) coming together to deliberate how to bridge the gap between industry and academia. 

The Summit also celebrated the progress made in fostering an ecosystem for building talent over the last year. In a first for India, students in collaboration with GFI India set up the ‘Delhi University Smart Protein Project’, a chapter of the global Alt Protein Project, dedicated to turning universities into engines for smart protein education, research, and innovation. Introducing the project, Devika Suresh, Innovation Associate, GFI India said, “Indian talent powers the global smart protein sector just as it does other strategically important industries, and we’re delighted to continue seeding the talent landscape through the Delhi Smart Protein Project. These student leaders will strengthen the ecosystem of education, incubation, and technology transfer in smart protein, and be propelled forward as the drivers of a more secure, sustainable, and just future of food.” While felicitating the student organizers of the project, Dr. ChindiVasudevappa, Director-VC at NIFTEM, added, “Plant-based food is where we are headed, and I’m delighted to see Delhi University students taking charge and innovating.”

The Summit concluded with the ‘Smart Protein Corridors’ session that hosted HE Cameron MacKay, High Commissioner of Canada, High Commission of Canada in New Delhi, HE Marten van den Berg, Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to India, Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in New Delhi, and Ms. Hagar Spiro-Tal, Political Counselor, Embassy of Israel in New Delhi with inputs from session chair Arun Seth, Advisor to GFI India, Board Member Narayana Health & Jubilant Group. The dignitaries discussed opportunities for bilateral and multilateral partnerships within the smart protein ecosystem and how smart protein hubs like Canada, Israel, and the Netherlands can work with India for mutual gains in this sector. Speaking to these complementary advantages, High Commissioner of Canada to India, HE Cameron MacKay said “Canada has technology around preventing post-harvest loss that Indian farmers could use, and in the same way, we can learn from Indian traditional knowledge and how farmers in India deal with climatic conditions.”

Varun Deshpande, President, GFI Asia closed the Summit with reflections on the two days and said, “I firmly believe that what we do about meat, will be the principal challenge of our lifetimes. Over the last five years, we’ve talked about the promise of this sector. What’s changed since then is the fact that 50+ companies have launched their smart protein products in markets across India. The sector has launched, and the conversations we’re having now have matured and have become a lot more sophisticated. But we still have a long way to go in order to create a world where alternative proteins are no longer alternative.”