How a plant-based seafood alternative is helping Canada reduce its carbon footprint

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Chris Bryson didn’t found New School Foods because of a drive to create or expand a new market. Instead, when the Canadian entrepreneur looked at the development of plant-based seafood products, he saw a different opportunity: a chance to help improve the health of our environment and our planet as a whole.

“We’re trying to be thoughtful about where the planet is going,” Bryson said. “If we keep making food the same way we make it today, we will never hit the Paris Climate Accord, we will not have a livable planet, not just for ourselves, but for all the other creatures that inhabit this planet. We have a responsibility to keep the planet healthy.”

New School Foods began development of its plant-based seafood alternative after embarking on a Protein Industries Canada project with Liven Proteins in June 2021. Both companies have seen success since the project’s launch, with their R&D efforts leading to promising initial results and further investment opportunities.

This partnership has led New School Foods down a path that Bryson said is leading to more environmental sustainability success than he believes they would have achieved had they pursued other investment methods.

“The beauty of working with Protein Industries Canada is that this has bought us more time to focus on what matters,” he explained. “We’ve been able to prioritize research and development above everything else. So I don’t have investors that are rushing, basically, the process, and that has allowed us to basically stumble across this production method that wouldn’t have happened otherwise. I don’t think we’d be on the same path were it not for our support from Protein Industries Canada.”

Currently, New School Foods’ primary goals related to environmental sustainably largely revolve around giving consumers a new choice in grocery stores that not only meets this sustainability expectation, but that also feels like an upgrade compared to regular seafood. Bryson said that many plant-based alternative products currently available offer some benefits for consumers, but don’t always meet or exceed those of their counterparts while remaining cost effective. Creating a plant-based alternative to salmon that meets the fish’s nutrition and taste profile, while being cost effective and sustainable, is a top priority for his company.

Looking toward the future, he hopes that New School Foods can improve upon both its product and its sustainability goals. This, he said, would involve further greenhouse gas reductions and lower water consumption benefits.

He hopes to see other companies look toward a similar future, and explained that an increased focus on their research and development stage can help them get there.

“What’s been eye-opening for me is realizing just how much is unexplored,” Bryson said. “So to whatever extent people can optimize the early days of their company toward prioritizing research and development, whether through working with a university or finding some sort of shared lab workspace or finding a scientist that’s willing to work … for whatever it may be, making sure that you prioritize research and development at the beginning is important because I think it’s hard to rewind the clock later down the line.”

As companies like New School Foods work toward lowering their carbon footprint and other environmental sustainability goals, Canada can look forward to a net-zero future—one built on collaboration, innovation and a dedication to supply Canadians with healthy, sustainable food options.