VALPRO PATH: New VALue landscapes for plant PROtein Pathways

The European plant-protein landscape is not fit-for-purpose. Without premium supply chains providing financial stability and independence to producers, current systems focus too heavily on the production of feedstock for animal production sectors. Furthermore, current business models have been selected based on old value paradigms, with little consideration for nutrient capture, climate resilience, and circularity. Although European farmers receive EU-support via Common Agricultural Payments to underpin protein production, the community remains too reliant on imports, with 70% of the EU’s compound feed requirement imported to meet domestic market demand. Meanwhile, the real value potential of what farmers produce remains unrealized, depriving society of sustainable dietary choices.

The societal awareness of the environmental impact of consuming animal-based protein is driving a fundamental change in public attitudes towards sustainable, alternative sources of dietary protein. The EU-funded project VALPRO Path, which stands for New VALue landscapes for plant PROtein Pathways,aims to demonstrate novel value with innovative uses for plant protein crops that underpin new models of circularity and value chain resilience.

The Operations Research and Logistics group at Wageningen University is involved in several parts of the project. They have received a €499.000 grant from the European Union’s funding programme Horizon Europe. Its contribution in the project foremost focusses on the redesign of supply chain network configurations. When scaling up promising pathways, a challenge is to determine the optimal level of centralisation vs decentralisation of the activities in the network, which highly depends on, amongst others, how side streams can be valorised, and waste can be processed. Reductions of environmental impact can always be realised, however, commonly at the expense of economic performance in a network.

Alternative supply chain networks will also have social impacts e.g., on employment rate or equity. Given the huge investments of the past in infrastructure and production facilities, transition pathways towards more sustainable supply chain networks cannot be realised from a revolutionary approach. Only a gradual transition from current practices is economically and socially feasible. Multi-objective mathematical programming-based approaches will provide the tools to quantify the (dis)advantages of alternative pathways, side stream valorisation options, on-farm (pre-)processing and production/logistics innovation, such that the associated cropping systems are tailored to meet Farm-To-Fork 2030 goals of the European Green Deal.

Project VALPRO Path is a response to the call Fair, healthy and environment-friendly food systems from primary production to consumption (HORIZON-CL6-2021-FARM2FORK-01-02; innovation & action).