Plant-based alternatives to food sources

Our oceans together with the life they sustain are hanging by a thread if we do not address the impact of climate change on marine life. Fish population is declining as oceans warm up, which puts pressure on food security. The health of our planet and our own health and future food security to all hinges on how we treat the blue world. As a result, we urgently need innovative solutions we urgently need innovative solutions to address the growing global demand for seafood without causing further — and irreparable — harm to ocean ecosystems. Advances in food technology and commercial innovation can drive market-based solutions in the form of plant-based and cell-based seafood, providing consumers with delicious, affordable, and nutritious seafood products without sacrifice. The aforementioned reasons are part of the reason Ilze Jece did her placement at a food lab at the Center for Food Education and Research to work on a project on plant-based and cell-based seafood alternatives.

After spending nearly two decades in the NGO sector, Ilze was looking for a career change at the time she found out about Pioneers from a friend.

Pioneers appealed to me because of the structured learning that they offered through the online course, introduction, on-site learning, municipality action — all of which were an interesting starting point for me. It went to show that they were focused on development and spent a considerable time ensuring the quality of the program was above par.

Ilze liked the networking opportunities with different actors across various fields that the program brought together. “It motivated me to have an open dialogue with experts, practitioners, researchers and engineers from around the world to understand the sustainability efforts done in different cultures and region to ensure we are leading sustainable lifestyles.” She says.

Ilze’s placement at the food lab accorded her the opportunity to work on a project that centered on plant-based products. As a vegan herself, she had a wealth of knowledge on the market and knows plant-based influencers. This helped her contribute effectively to the work of the food lab. Ilze also championed for “Clean food” recipes which use fewer ingredients that are easily accessible as locally found products and also using produce from local farmers to promote sustainability for all—across different communities and social classes.

While at the food lab, she specifically worked on a plant-based project to develop plant-based salmon and plant-based mozzarella. Her work involved conducting market research and ecological alternatives and needs of the product. After completing the research, they conducted experiments—cutting and cooking the salmon to establish what worked to determine what products would be sustainable and eco-friendly. Ilze and her team developed a prototype of a plant-based salmon that they hope will find its way in the markets and our plates in the near future.

With no prior technical experience in the food technology industry, “I had to have a beginner’s mind and be comfortable not knowing everything. This nudged me to be curious and ask questions where I did not understand such as the chemical formulas and names, as well as the business practice.” She mentioned that when talking about the skills she gained at the food lab. In addition, Ilze learnt about cultural sensitivities and how to navigate this space when developing products for different markets, including thinking the language to use when talking about cultural differences and generational cultures within the food industry and public perception. For instance. “While a Nordic market would favor certain produce because it is within their culture, it might not work across a different one, such as Portugal. This was important in how we approached the business because it influences the choice of the products and how the public responds to it,” she commented.

Ilze’s hope for the future is to see more people transition towards a sustainable lifestyle—be it in how we commute, how we eat, or go about our daily lives. She hopes to see increased national impacts and tangible results based on the work Pioneers do, and their work gets integrated in the work plans of the projects they take part in.