ARTICLE

April 2019: The Month in Review

April was a strong start to the second quarter for cellular agriculture. Compared to conventional livestock agriculture, cellular agriculture (cell ag) offers a more sustainable and environmentally-friendly way to meet the growing demand for animal products. Without requiring animals. With new investments in the field as well as research grants, this article article takes a look at what happened this April in cellular agriculture.

Investments

Clara Foods

Clara Foods announced that they raised their Series B financing. Clara Foods is a startup that uses cellular agriculture to produce animal-free egg white proteins. By designing yeast to produce the same proteins found in an egg from a chicken, Clara Foods can make the same egg white. Without requiring the chicken. Clara Foods’ Series B was led by Ingredion, a global ingredients distributor in over 120 countries. Other investors in the round included B37, Hemisphere Ventures, and SOSV. Interestingly, B37 is the strategic partner of Grupo Bimbo, the world’s largest baking company.

While Clara Foods has not disclosed how much they have raised this round, AgFunder reports that sources close to the deal say Clara Foods was raising $40 million. There are still potential investors coming into the round. Clara Foods also recently shared that they raised $15 million in their Series A financing in 2016.

As part of the funding announcement, Clara Foods announced a global partnership with Ingredion. The partnership will help Clara Foods develop, market, and globally distribute their product as an ingredient for other products. Distribution and marketing channels are important aspects of getting a product to market, and it’s promising that Clara Foods can leverage Ingredion’s network to access the global market.

Shiok Meats

Shiok Meats announced that they raised $4.6 million to complete their seed round of funding. Based in Singapore, Shiok Meats is the first cell-based meat company in Southeast Asia. Founded by Sandhya Sriram and Ka Yi Ling, Shiok Meats plans to produce cell-based seafood, like shrimp and other crustaceans, using cellular agriculture. Shiok Meats’ financing round was led by Monde Nissin, a leading food consumers goods company in the Philippines. Other investors in the round include Big Idea Ventures, Aera VC, Beyond Impact, and Boom Capital. The funding round also included Y Combinator, a leading accelerator program for early stage startups.

In March, Shiok Meats made history and showcased the first ever cell-based shrimp dumpling in Singapore. Co-founders Sandhya Sriram and Ka Yi Ling presented their dumplings alongside the Good Food Institute’s Managing Director of Asia Pacific, Elaine Siu, and advisers John Cheng of Innovate 360 and Henry Soesanto, the CEO of Monde Nissin. They all gave a thumbs up after trying it.

The $4.6 million seed round now makes Shiok Meats one of the best funded cell-based meat company. It is a promising sign that the field is growing and there are investors looking to change the future of food.

Veggie Disks, Anyone?

This month, the European Parliament’s Agriculture Committee approved a ban on plant-based foods from using terms that have traditionally described meat products.

Steak, sausage, hamburger, escalope. If the legislation passes, plant-based products will not be allowed to use these terms in the European Union.

The regulation passed the Agriculture Committee with 80% approval. Following the European elections in May, the entire European Parliament will vote on the regulation before passing it on to the European Commission. Considering that the European Court of Justice has previously barred plant-based products from using terms like milk, cream, and butter to market their products, it’s not surprising that the Agricultural Committee is now going after plant-based meats.

Some of the suggested replacement terms for plant-based products include phrases like veggie disk. Don’t sound very appealing, does it?

While the EU’s regulation focuses on plant-based alternatives, it will be interesting to see what these regulatory stances will mean for the future of cellular agriculture in Europe. Netherlands has been a leader in the field of cell-cultured meats from its early days. If the regulation passes in the European Parliament, only time will tell its impact on the emergence of cellular agriculture and plant-based startups in Europe.

India Grants Funding for Cell-Based Meat Research

This month, the Indian government granted Rs. 4.5 crores ($640,000) to two research centres to continue to study cell-based meat. The Indian government’s Department of Biotechnology granted the funding to the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology and the National Research Centre on Meat. This funding grant is one of the largest investments by a government into cell-based meat research. The research project will focus on developing methods to grow tissue samples from sheep. In February, a research paper found that there was a high acceptance of both cell-based meats and plant-based meats in India and China compared to the USA. The paper show that, in all countries, higher familiarity about the concept of cell-based meat (and its benefits) led to higher rates of acceptance and willingness to try it. Coupled with the government grant, will we see an emergence of startups working on cell-based mutton in India?

AMSilk selling cosmetic arm

AMSilk is a German company that also uses cell-cultured spider silk proteins. Calling their biofabricated silk ‘Biosteel’, AMSilk recently announced that they sold their spider silk cosmetics arm to Swiss Givaudan, one of the largest cosmetics, flavours, and fragrances companies in the world. This follows Bolt Threads’ launch of spinoff company Eighteen B in March to produce silk cosmetics, without requiring animals to produce the silk. According to Eighteen B, silk proteins help create a protective barrier around the skin when added to cosmetics. Making it a useful ingredient in skincare products. From spider silk clothing to cosmetics, is promising to see the growing interest in the application of spider silk in various uses.

Conclusion

New investments, grant funding, and a regulatory hurdle. April continued cellular agriculture’s great start to the year and a strong start to the second quarter of 2019. The impact of EU’s regulatory decision highlights that regulation continues to be an obstacle for the field moving forward. The US regulatory agencies only recently established a basic framework for regulating cell-cultured meat products. In other words, the fight for the word meat continues.

It will be interesting to see what the summer brings next. This coming July marks New Harvest’s fourth annual conference dedicated to cellular agriculture. As a conference media partner, looking forward to attending the conference at the MIT Media Labs in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on July 19th and 20th.