Jeff Bezos Foundation Invests $30M in NC State for Alternative Proteins Research

NC State’s Centennial Campus to House State-of-the-Art Protein Research Lab

By Milo Runkle

NC State has long been at the forefront of agricultural and food science research.

In a groundbreaking move that promises to reshape the landscape of food technology, the Bezos Earth Fund, backed with $10 billion from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, has announced a $30 million donation to North Carolina State University (NC State) for research on alternative proteins and cultivated meat. This generous contribution will fund the establishment of the Bezos Center for Sustainable Protein, a cutting-edge research lab dedicated to pioneering sustainable, ethical, and nutritious food solutions.

A Vision for Sustainable Food Systems

The global demand for meat and protein is skyrocketing, leading to significant environmental and ethical concerns. Traditional livestock farming is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation, and water scarcity. Additionally, concerns about animal welfare and food security are driving the search for viable alternatives. The Bezos Earth Fund's investment in NC State is a strategic effort to address these challenges by accelerating research in alternative proteins and cultivated meat.

The Role of NC State

NC State has long been at the forefront of agricultural and food science research. The new funding will bolster its capabilities, allowing it to attract top-tier scientists and researchers from around the world. The state-of-the-art lab, to be housed on NC State's Centennial Campus, will focus on developing scalable, cost-effective methods for producing plant-based proteins, fermentation methods that produce protein nutrients, and cultivated meat grown from animal cells. This initiative aligns with NC State's commitment to innovation and sustainability, positioning it as a leader in the future of food technology.

The Potential Impact

1. Environmental Benefits: Cultivated meat and alternative proteins have the potential to significantly reduce the environmental footprint of food production. They require fewer resources, produce fewer greenhouse gases, and can help preserve natural habitats. Andrew Steer, CEO of the Bezos Earth Fund, emphasized this point, stating, "Food production, especially raising livestock, is the second largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the world."

2. Ethical Advancements: With cultivated meat, the need for animal slaughter is eliminated, addressing animal welfare concerns and offering a more humane way to meet the world's protein needs.

3. Health Improvements: Alternative proteins can be engineered to be healthier than traditional meat, with reduced fat content and enhanced nutritional profiles. This can help combat dietary-related health issues like obesity and heart disease.

4. Economic Opportunities: The development of alternative protein industries can create new jobs and drive economic growth. As these technologies become more mainstream, they will open up new markets and opportunities for innovation. Andy Jarvis, director of future of food for the Earth Fund, highlighted that the center will "be incubating some of the best ideas and technologies that get developed."

The Broader Context

This investment is part of a larger trend towards sustainable food solutions. The alternative protein market is rapidly growing, with companies and researchers around the globe exploring new ways to produce food that is better for the planet and its inhabitants. The support from the Bezos Earth Fund highlights the importance of this field and the potential it holds for transforming the future of food. The fund's decision to support NC State, selected from among 40 different universities due to its strong track record of partnering with private companies, underscores the strategic nature of this investment.

Local and Global Collaboration

In addition to NC State, which went through a year-long process to win the grant, the Bezos Earth Fund plans to collaborate with universities in Europe and Asia. This global approach aims to foster innovation and share knowledge across borders, ensuring that advancements in alternative protein technology benefit the global community.

Several local food startups, including Wild Earth and Sable Fermentation, as well as national firms like Cargill, have already committed to working with the center. Rohan Shirwaiker, an NC State professor who will help lead the center, mentioned that the funding will support research and create more positions for scientists and students to collaborate with industry partners.


The $30 million funding from the Bezos Earth Fund to NC State is more than just a financial boost; it's a statement of confidence in the future of alternative proteins and cultivated meat. This initiative will not only advance scientific research but also pave the way for a more sustainable, ethical, and healthy food system. As Steer noted, the goal is not to make everyone eat plant- or cell-based meat but to provide more choice and education to consumers, ensuring food security for all.

Joyful Ventures is excited to witness and support the innovations that will emerge from this pioneering research lab, heralding a new era of food production.

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