December marks the end of a remarkable year for the entire cellular agriculture industry. Cellular agriculture (cell ag) is the field of producing animal products, like meat or dairy products, from cell cultures directly instead of raising animals for the same products. Compared to conventional livestock agriculture, cell ag provides a more sustainable way to produce animal products to meet the growing demand for animal products. Without requiring animals.
In a year full of advancements and accomplishments, this December was no different for the field. From new prototypes and awards to many investments in new and established companies, this article takes a look at what happened this December in cellular agriculture.
Perfect Day announced that the company raised a massive $140 million in their Series C funding round. Based in Berkeley, Perfect Day is a startup that uses cellular agriculture to produce animal-free dairy proteins. By designing flora to produce the same dairy proteins found in milk, Perfect Day can make the same milk. Without requiring the cow.
Perfect Day’s funding round is the largest funding round by any cellular agriculture food company. Perfect Day also became one of the first cell ag food startups to raise a Series C round. Their funding round was led by Temasek, who had previously co-led Perfect Day’s Series B round and led their Series A round in February 2018.
Perfect Day’s announcement marks off another incredible year for the company. In February 2019, Perfect Day became one of the first cellular agriculture companies to raise their Series B round by raising $34.75 million to help scale the company. And in November 2019, Perfect Day also recently announced plans to start developing animal fats, specifically milk fats.
Perfect Day also released several images highlighting that their flora-based dairy proteins can be used to create a range of products. From coffee milk froth to a glass of milk to different types of cheese (like mozzarella, feta, and cream cheese), the range of products highlight how versatile Perfect Day’s dairy proteins can be.
Meatable shared that the Dutch startup raised an additional $10 million in their seed round of funding. Based in Netherlands, Meatable is a startup that uses cellular agriculture to grow cell-based meat. In a recent post, Meatable shared that the additional $10 million funding came from existing seed round investors, including BlueYard Capital, and prominent angel investors Taavet Hinrikus, the CEO and founder of TransferWise, and Albert Wegner, Managing Partner of Union Square Ventures. Meatable also received $3 million from the European Commission through its Eurostars Programme. The round brings Meatable’s total funding to $13 million.
Meatable announced that they will showcase a prototype of their first product next summer: a cell-based pork chop. Meatable shared that they will use their own scaffolding technology to develop their meat prototype. Meatable also said that their cell-culture media will be a plant-based formulation that does not require fetal bovine serum.
In October 2018, Meatable announced that the startup raised $3.5 million in seed funding.
Legendairy Foods announced that they raised €4 million (US $4.7 million) in seed funding. Based in Berlin, Germany, Legendairy Foods is a new startup that uses cellular agriculture to make dairy cheese without requiring cows. Founded by Raffael Wohlgensinger and Dr Britta Winterberg, Legendairy Foods is the first European cellular agriculture startup focusing on producing animal-free dairy products. Both Wohlgensinger and Winterberg were motivated to found Legendairy Foods to develop a sustainable food system without requiring animals to create milk.
Legendairy Foods’ seed round was co-led by Agronomics and M Ventures. Other investors in the round include CPT Capital, Atlantic Food Labs, and Good Seed Ventures. M Ventures, which previously invested in Mosa Meat, is the corporate venture arm of German pharmaceutical company Merck KGaA. Legendairy Foods was also part of the ProVeg Incubator in Berlin, Germany.
Legendairy Foods plans to use the seed funding round to expand their team and accelerate the development of their first product: an animal-free dairy cheese.
Bond Pets announced that they raised $1.2 million in their seed funding round. Based in Boulder, Colorado, Bond Pets’ round of funding was led by Lever VC, a venture capital firm focused on the future of sustainable protein. Other investors in the round include Agronomics, KBW Ventures, Plug and Play Ventures, and Andante Asset Management.
Founded by Rich Kelleman and Pernilla Audibert, Bond Pets is a pet food startup that uses cellular agriculture to produce sustainable pet food. While other startups are using cell cultures to directly grow animal meat from cells, Bond Pets uses acellular agriculture to produce their animal-free pet food.
Instead of growing the cells found in meat, Bond Pets inserts copies of animal muscle protein genes into microbes like yeast to produce the animal meat proteins. These muscle proteins can then be harvest to make Bond Pets’ animal-free pet food. This is the same process used by Perfect Day and Clara Foods to produce dairy and egg white proteins via cellular agriculture, respectively.
Bond Pets also shared that they plan to launch their first product, a pure yeast dog treat bar, in 2020. While their first dog treat will not involve any of their cultured meat proteins, Bond Pets hopes their debut product will start a conversation where pet owners will be more open to the idea of feeding cultured pet foods to their pets down the road.
Based in Flanders, Peace of Meat is a new cell-based meat startup that received a grant of €1.2 million (US$1.33 million) from the Flemish government agency Agentschap Innoveren & Ondernemen in Belgium. The grant will support Peace of Meat as they explore opportunities to scale production of cell-based meat, including cell line optimization and development of a animal-free media formulation for cell cultures. Peace of Meat aims to become a cell-based meat supplier company focusing on avian fat and liver. They initially plan to focus of cell-cultured foie gras.
Clara Foods co-founder and CEO Arturo Elizondo was named in Forbes 30-Under-30 list of entrepreneurs! The list commemorates innovative founders and startups, and it’s great to see that Clara Foods’ CEO was recognized for his incredible work to change the future of food. Make sure to check out Arturo’s video interview about the company's mission.
Clara Foods is the first startup to use acellular agriculture to produce an animal-free egg white proteins. While announcing their Series B funding in April 2019, Arturo shared that Clara Foods plans to bring their first product to market as early as 2020. Clara Foods did not announce what their first product will be, but Arturo shared it could be one of two products: and egg white foam for baking; or a soluble, clean tasting egg white protein mix for sports nutrition drinks.
As one of the first cellular agriculture companies to go through IndieBio, the accelerator that helped commercialize the field, it’s fitting that Arturo Elizondo was recognized for his incredible work as one of the first food cellular agriculture companies. In November 2018, Perfect Day co-founders Ryan Pandya and Perumal Gandhi were named in Forbes 30-Under-30 list of Social Entrepreneurs.
Shiok Meats co-founder and CTO Ka Yi Ling was named as one of EmTech Asia’s Under 35 innovators. The list recognizes pioneers who are leading the next generation of technological breakthroughs in Asia, and it’s great to see Shiok Meat’s CTO recognized for her incredible work to create cell-based seafood, specifically shrimp.
The recognition continues Shiok Meats’ incredible 2019. In April 2019, Shiok Meats raised $4.6 million to complete their seed round of funding. To date, this is the largest seed funding round for any cell-based seafood company. Along with that, Shiok Meats made history by showcasing the first ever cell-based shrimp dumpling in Singapore.
To end the year, cell-based seafood company BlueNalu showcased the first cell-based yellowtail amberjack fish meat. From fish tacos and poke bowls to yellowtail bisque, BlueNalu displayed that their cell-based yellowtail can be as versatile as conventional yellowtail.
BlueNalu’s cell-based yellowtail showcase wraps up a remarkable year for cell-based seafood companies and showcasing their prototypes. In addition to Shiok Meat’s cell-based shrimp showcase, Wild Type presented the first cell-based salmon dinner in June 2019. And, more recently, Avant Meats shared the first ever cell-based fish maw in Hong Kong in October 2019.
Geltor announced that consumer goods industry veteran Gina Boswell will join their Board of Directors. Based in San Leandro, California, Geltor uses cellular agriculture to grow animal-free collagen protein. Traditionally, collagen is sourced from bones and skin of livestock animals or fish, and Geltor’s collagen via cellular agriculture offers an alternative and sustainable way to get the same product
Previously recognized as one of the “50 Most Influential People in Beauty” by Women’s Wear Daily and “Achiever of the Year” by Cosmetic Executive Women, Boswell joining Geltor’s board suggests that the company will continue to explore using their collagen in the beauty and cosmetic field. In March 2019, Geltor launched HumaColl21, the first ever human collagen created for cosmetic formulations. Their innovative product is currently being used by Kolmar Korea, a leading personal care manufacturer in Asia. In November 2019, Geltor announced a partnership with Connell to bring their cell ag collagen to personal care markets in the Asia Pacific region.
Without any cell-based meat or other food product available on the market, it’s easy to think that there hasn’t been much accomplished over the year. But looking through all the achievements of the year (and this month alone) - from awards and product showcases to record-breaking funding rounds - you can see all the progress that took place in 2019 to advance cellular agriculture.
This December illustrated what an incredible year 2019 has been for cellular agriculture. With 5 different funding announcements, from a European government grant to the largest funding round ever for a cell ag company, the field continues to expand with both new startups and pioneering companies.
Throughout the year, many companies, especially cell-based seafood startups, showcased prototypes to highlight the diverse range of foods that can be made from their products. Not only that, Aleph Farms showed that their meat can even be produced in outer space!
Indeed, 2019 was a record-breaking year when it comes to investments in the cellular agriculture field. No other year has brought in as many deals or funding amounts before. And with more investors, corporate ventures, and accelerators looking into the field, the number of investments may only increase. All for the future of food.
Yet, there still a lot of work to be done, especially on the regulatory side. In the United States, where the field is still predominately based, regulatory agencies have only established a basic framework for how cell-based meat may be regulated in the country. In August 2019, several US cell-based meat companies set up their own coalition to advocate for a clearly regulatory pathway to market for their products.
After all the incredible feats of 2019, we can’t wait to see what 2020 brings next for cellular agriculture and the future of food.
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