Food of tomorrow: operational launch of the Grand Challenge “Ferments of the Future”

The “Ferments of the Future” Grand Challenge led by INRAE, the National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food and the Environment, and ANIA, the National Association of Food Industries, was officially launched on September 12. Funded by the State to the tune of 48.3 million euros as part of France 2030, it aims to accelerate the agricultural and food revolution in the service of healthy, sustainable and traceable food thanks to natural fermentation techniques. . It now brings together 34 public and private players, from academic research to cooperatives, from start-ups to large groups, and was launched operationally on December 12 with the first meeting of its Strategic Orientation Committee.

Fermentation, a thousand-year-old way of preserving food, is back in fashion. Fermented foods are not only found in organic stores, in fact, we consume them daily: bread, cheese, sausage, yogurt, wine…

Meat consumption, which has increased considerably in recent decades, particularly in Western countries, has consequences for human and animal health, but also from an environmental point of view. A diet where fermented foods are more present could be the solution.

The objectives of the “Ferments of the future” grand challenge

The objective of the Grand Défi is to better understand the mechanisms involved in food fermentation in order to make them evolve if necessary, depending on health issues, climate change or even to adapt to consumer expectations. It also aims to develop new fermented foods, based on fruits and vegetables, pulses (lentils, chickpeas, peanuts, etc.) but also cereals, with the aim of rebalancing the intake between animal and vegetable proteins in our diet and to enhance its sustainability.

It will mobilize natural fermentation techniques to accelerate the agricultural and food revolution in the service of food:

  • Safer because fermentation is a natural transformation process that allows better food preservation, limiting the use of additives;
  • Healthier because fermentation can produce nutrients of interest, such as vitamins, improve our intestinal microbiota or even optimize the sensory qualities of food while reducing their sugar or salt content;
  • More sustainable because fermentation is a solution to adapt to variations in raw materials linked to climate change or to limit food waste.

Currently focused on food, Ferments du Futur may gradually open up to other applications, particularly in the agricultural sector.

A unique innovation platform in Europe

The program will rely on the excellence of French research teams in the field of Ferments du Futur, on a national scale but also via regional centres. An innovation platform intended for more mature projects will be set up on the Saclay plateau from the end of 2023.

Among the 34 public-private partners already involved in the program are:

  • 6 public members: INRAE ​​(7 research platforms specialized in microbiology, food processing processes and data science), AgroParisTech, the Agro Institute, Clermont Auvergne University, Paris-Saclay University, VetAgro Sup;
  • 21 private members (8 Start-ups, 7 VSEs/SMEs/ETIs, 6 Large Groups): Agrial, Atelier du Fruit, Axereal, Bel, Biogroupe, C&DAC, Danone, Eurogerm, Grandiose, Green Spot
    Technologies, Greentech, Lallemand, Les Nouveaux Affineurs, Lesaffre, le LIP, Nutrition & Santé Nutropy, Revobiom, Philibert Savours, ShakeUpFactory, Toopi;
  • 7 associate members (unions, Interprofessions, Technical Institutes, competitiveness clusters): ACTIA, ADEPALE, ANIA, CNIEL, FEDALIM, SYFAB and Vitagora.

The scientific and technological challenges of the program

The research teams will tackle fundamental questions to innovate in the field of ferments and fermented foods, in particular:

  • How to develop ferments adapted to foods of plant origin? Which technologies to monitor microbial dynamics in fermentation processes in real time? ;
  • How to evaluate the interest of fermented foods in the maturation of the intestinal microbiota in infants?;
  • What contribution of AI to develop new combinations of ferments?

To answer these questions, calls for projects, with an annual envelope of €1.5M, will be launched (the first is scheduled for early 2023), in order to select 5 to 7 pre-competitive projects targeting strategic priorities. The first pre-competitive results of the Grand Défi Ferments du Futur are expected at the end of 2024.

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Food of tomorrow: operational launch of the Grand Challenge “Ferments of the Future”

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