Cover photo taken by Jacyln Tyler at New Harvest 2018 Conference
Conferences bring together the best in the field. From innovative research to aspiring startups, conferences provide a great platform for any field to come together and share the latest ideas.
That’s exactly the case with cellular agriculture this year. Cellular agriculture (‘cell ag’) is the field of growing animal products, like meat and leather, from cell cultures. Without requiring animals.
With new investments and awards, 2018 has been an incredible year for cell ag. One of the highlights has been an increase in conferences featuring cell ag research and startups. From panel discussions at SXSW to presentations at Future Food Tech.
There has also been a rise in the number of conferences dedicated to cell ag all around the world. This article highlights some of the conferences focused on cellular agriculture and making it the future of food.
At the start of March, the Shojinmeat Project organized the first conference about cellular agriculture in Asia. Featuring keynote speaker Erin Kim, the former Communications Director of New Harvest, the Shojinmeat Project is a non-profit that helps people learn more about cell-based meat and how to grow their own at home in Japan. Through the Shojinmeat Project, founder Yuki Hanyu hopes to engage and inform the public about cell ag and its benefits. Organizing the first conference in Asia is an important step to do so. Hanyu also runs the startup Integriculture, which raised JPY 300M (US$2.7M) in funding in May.
July marked the 3rd annual New Harvest Conference at the MIT Media Labs in Cambridge, Massachusetts. New Harvest is the main nonprofit organization in the field that funds primary research in cellular agriculture, and the New Harvest Conference is the world’s first dedicated to cell ag.
Unlike previous conferences, the tone of #NewHarvest2018 was different. Instead of being more theoretical and upbeat about the field’s potential, this conference was more realistic. With presentations about the importance (and struggles) of regulation, there seemed to be a more grounded perspective this year.
And that’s one of the most positive signs for the field. It shows that, in one year, cellular agriculture has grown from a theory to the lab.
The inaugural Good Food Conference by the Good Food Institute (GFI) took place at the University of California in Berkeley, California in September. The Good Food Conference is the world’s only conference to focus on the commercialization of both plant-based and cell-based meat. This year, they had an incredible lineup of speakers and panels discussing the future of food. During the conference, Josh Tetrick, the CEO and co-founder of Just, hinted that Just may bring a cell-cultured meat product out to market at an overseas restaurant by the end of the year.
But that wasn’t the only big announcement from the conference.
In August, Memphis Meats and the North American Meat Institute sent a joint letter to the White House to propose a regulatory pathway forward for cultured meat. In the letter, Memphis Meats referred to their product as “cell-based meat” and not cultured or clean meat.
During the Good Food Conference, most of the other attending cell ag startups announced that they support Memphis Meats’ letter and will also use the name cell-based meat to identify their product. Memphis Meats believe that the name cell-based meat will garner more cooperation from the conventional meat industry and US meat regulators. Cooperation with the meat industry will be an important step to overcome some of the obstacles ahead for cell ag.
The Cultured Meat Symposium is the next event coming up! The Cultured Meat Symposium (CMS) is bringing together a great line-up of speakers to talk about several major themes relating to cell-cultured meat: its Impact, Future, and Flavour. The inaugural event, CMS18, takes place on November 1st in San Francisco, California. You can get your ticket to CMS18 here.
According to Alex Shirazi, one of the organizers behind CMS18, the conference aims to reach people outside of cell ag. “Our target is to get people that are outside of [the cell ag] industry into industry.”
In a city known predominately for its tech startups, Shirazi also looks to shift the narrative towards cell ag. “We’re bringing in this type of technology, clean meat, and saying move over AI, move over VR. We’re going to be the next hot topic.”
The 4th annual International Conference on Cultured Meat will be held in Maastricht, Netherlands, from December 2nd to 4th. This is one of the longest running conferences dedicated to research on cell-based (or cultured) meat. The conference is accepting abstracts submissions from interested researchers until October 15th. You can register for the conference here.
Dr. Mark Post with the first cultured meat burger
In July, Mosa Meat raised $8.8 million in its Series A funding to become the first European cell ag startup to receive venture funding. Mosa Meat was founded by Dr. Mark Post, the researcher behind the first public cultured meat taste test in August 2013.
In September, new startup Meatable raised $3.5 million to complete their seed round of funding. Interestingly, Meatable’s Chief Technology Officer, Daan Luining, was part of the research team under Dr. Post that developed the first burgers in August 2013.
From being involved in the field from the beginning, both Dr. Post and Luining will be attending the conference in Maastricht.
The growth of cellular agriculture is reflected in the number of conferences dedicated to it. With five different global events, 2018 has been a great year for the field. As the field grows, there will likely be even more events dedicated to growing the future of food.
It will be interesting to see if the the name change to cell-based meats will impact the name of any conferences. Will CMS and International Cultured Meat Conference keep their names, or would they change them to reflect the newly supported name?
Alex Shirazi thinks CMS would change their name. “We would use whatever term speaks to the industry the most.”
“Fortunately, all the alternative names start with C [cell-based meat, clean meat, craft meat], so we would still call it CMS.”
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