With the population of both humans and animals continuing to grow, demand for food continues to grow as well. With limited resources needed to produce food, scientists are always searching for new ways to improve efficiency and output. As consumers and pet food manufacturers alike seek out ways to improve sustainability, long known but rarely used plant-based proteins may become a more popular option in the near future.
Speaking at the recent Petfood Forum 2017, Dr. Fred van de Velde, Expertise Group Leader in Protein Functionality for Food Research Firm NIZO, expressed his opinion that plant-based proteins may offer a sustainable solution to the increased demand for protein used in pet foods. While plant-based proteins can be found in many foods humans and animals already eat — such as peas, soybeans, corn, and wheat — van de Velde suggested that these plants may see in increase in popularity in response to the demand for sustainable protein. In addition to existing sources, van de Velde indicated that advancements in crop production and protein extraction approaches may soon allow chickpeas, lentils, fava beans, rapeseed, and other vegetables to be sustainably used as sources of protein.
Further into the future, advances may open up even more exotic sources of protein. Scientists have shown particular interest in harvesting algae, duckweed, and other aquatic plants for their protein. Because these plants grow in water, they wouldn’t compete with land-based crops for space. By taking advantage of what has largely been unused space, scientists hope these plants will allow for much larger quantities of protein to be produced in the future.