Process Engineering roles that can save the planet

  • Published on January 30

Process Engineers play a pivotal role in fighting climate change and achieving global food security in the next decade.

As humanity grapples with environmental concerns, resource scarcity, and a growing population, the world is rapidly realizing the need to replace traditional land-intensive animal agriculture with more sustainable solutions. Food production currently generates ⅓ of the global greenhouse gas emissions (cows emit methane, a greenhouse gas 28 times more potent than carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere). And if that weren’t enough, animal agriculture is responsible for nearly 90% of tropical deforestation worldwide (most of the soy and corn grown globally is for animal feed). 

With the realization that animal agriculture needs to be scaled back substantially if we are to continue living on our planet, the food industry is eagerly throwing resources at transforming the way food is made. Alternatives to meat, dairy, and eggs using plant-based ingredients, fermentation, and cell-culture technologies have become the new frontier of climate innovation

What most people don’t realize is that the ability to succeed at an industrial scale lives and dies on process engineers’ ability to design more sustainable solutions for producing, processing, and distributing food.

Process engineers with backgrounds in biotech, biofuels, pharma, and more, are the architects behind the efficient and scalable production of alternative proteins. Their interdisciplinary expertise in chemical engineering, biotechnology, and food science positions them as key players in optimizing manufacturing processes, which is why up to 41% of alternative protein companies consider process engineering among the top 5 most needed technical skills.

Here are a few ways process engineers have become indispensable contributors to the alternative protein industry:

  • Resource Efficiency. Process engineers play a vital role in optimizing resource utilization. This includes minimizing water usage, energy consumption, and raw material waste, aligning with the industry's commitment to environmental responsibility.
  • Scale-up and Optimization. Top process engineers excel in translating laboratory-scale processes into large-scale production. Their ability to optimize and streamline processes ensures cost-effectiveness, resource efficiency, and scalability – essential factors for the success of the alternative protein industry.
  • Bioprocess Development. Bioprocess engineers design and fine-tune fermentation processes, ensuring the efficient cultivation of microorganisms for protein production. This is particularly valuable in the production of microbial proteins and precision fermentation-derived products.

In addition to contributing significantly to global sustainability goals, another draw for process engineers to switch to a career in alt protein is that it is a hotbed of innovation. Process engineers have the opportunity to work with some of the world’s most cutting-edge technologies such as cellular agriculture, precision fermentation, and novel extraction methods.

Check out process engineering roles in the alt protein industry here

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