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December 2020: The Month in Review

Photograph by Eat Just

December marked the end of a historic year for the cellular agriculture industry. Cellular agriculture is the field of producing animal products, like meat and dairy, directly from cell cultures instead of animals. Compared to conventional livestock agriculture, cellular agriculture offers a more sustainable and alternative way to meet the growing demand for animal products. Without requiring animals.

In spite of the devastating impact of Covid-19 around the world, the cellular agriculture field was fortunate to push through and achieve milestone after milestone. And this December clearly highlighted that. Like December 2019 with 5 major investments, this December included 9 cellular agriculture companies announcing investments. But that wasn’t even the biggest headline.

From investments in cellular agriculture startups and nonprofits to the first regulatory approval for cell-based meat, we take a look at what happened this month in cellular agriculture. 

Investments

Mosa Meat

Mosa Meat announced the expansion of its Series B round by raising an additional $20 million to bring its total Series B funding to $75 million. This is the largest funding round to date for a European cellular agriculture company, and the funding round more than doubles all disclosed investments in Europe.

Based in Maastricht, Netherlands, Mosa Meat uses cellular agriculture to produce cell-based meat. After its first close in September, Mosa Meat’s expanded Series B round included investments from Mitsubishi Corporation, Target Global, ArcTern Ventures, and Rubio Impact Ventures. Blue Horizon Ventures, the lead investor in Mosa Meat’s Series B round, also featured in the expanded Series B financing. 

The latest funding round continues Mosa Meat’s great end to the year. In July, along with announcing Bell Food’s investment in the Series B funding round, Mosa Meat shared that the startup successfully removed fetal bovine serum from its cell culture media and reduced the price of its animal-free cell culture media 88 times since September 2019. In June, Mosa Meat also moved into their new pilot plant facility in Maastricht

Mosa Meat plans to use the new funding to expand its team, extend its pilot plant facility, and develop an industrial-sized production line. Before introducing its cell-based beef to customers, Mosa Meat also aims to work with European regulators to demonstrate the safety of its cell-based meat in order to receive regulatory approval for its novel product.

 

Remilk

Israeli startup Remilk raised $11.3 million in Series A funding to produce animal-free dairy products using cellular agriculture. By designing microorganisms to produce the same dairy ingredients found in cow’s milk, Remilk aims to make the same dairy products without requiring the cow.

Remilk’s Series A was led by fresh.fund and featured investments from CPT Capital, ProVeg, and food manufacturers Hochland, Tnuva, and Tempo. Considering their interest from the dairy industry, it is promising to see Remilk form strategic relations with large food and dairy manufacturing companies as the company continues to grow.

 

TurtleTree Labs

Singaporean startup TurtleTree Labs announced the company raised $6.2 million in its pre-Series A funding round. Founded by Fengru Lin and Max Rye, TurtleTree Labs plans to grow mammary gland cells that will directly produce the mammalian milk, such as human breast milk.

The funding round wraps up a strong 2020 for the first dairy startup. In June 2020, TurtleTree Labs raised $3.2 million in its seed funding round. Following that, TurtleTree Labs went on to win the Livability Challenge by the Temasek Foundation in July 2020 and was awarded $1 million in funding. In October 2020, TurtleTree Labs won the grand prize of $500,000 at the Entrepreneurship World Cup.

 

Avant Meats

Hong Kong-based Avant Meats announced the company raised $3.1 million in seed funding to accelerate its research and development in producing cell-based seafood. Among the many investors, the funding round included investments by China Venture Capital, Lever VC, AngelHub, Particle X, CPT Capital, and Artesian. Notably, Markus Haefeli, the chairman of leading tilapia fish producer Regal Springs, also invested in Avant Meats’ seed round. 

In November 2020, Avant Meats showcased its latest prototype: a cell-based fish fillet. Previously, in October 2019, Avant Meats showcased the first cell-based fish maw, a popular dish in China and Southeast Asian cuisine. Avant Meats’ accomplishment highlights how cell ag can be used to develop a diverse range of products to help meet consumer demands in various cuisines across cultures.

 

Joes Future Food

Chinese cell-based meat startup Joes Future Food announced the new startup secured CNY20 million (approximately $3 million) in seed funding. Formerly known as Nanjing Zhouzi, the startup raised the funding round from Matrix Partners China.

Based in Nanjing, China, Joes Future Food was founded out of Nanjing Agricultural University. In November 2019, Professor Zhou Guanghong and his team created the first cell-based pork meat in China at a research center at the university. One month later, Joes Future Food officially registered as a spinoff company from the university and set up its lab at the Nanjing Baima Agricultural High-Tech Industrial Park.

Focusing on pork meat, Joes Future Food aims to use the funding round to continue developing its solutions to the scaling challenges facing the cell-based meat sector. According to Dr. Liu Qing, the company has increased its production efficiency over the last year. Instead of taking 20 days to produce 5g of cell-based prok, Dr. Qing told Good Food Institute that Joes Future Food can now produce 50g in the same amount of time.

 

Better Dairy

Similar to Remilk, UK-based Better Dairy announced the startup raised £1.6 million ($2.13 million) in seed funding to produce animal-free dairy without requiring animals. Founded by Jevan Nagarajah and Christopher Reynolds, Better Dairy plans to use the funding round to accelerate its R&D efforts with the aim to commercialize its first products by early 2022. Better Dairy’s seed round was led by Happiness Capital and featured investments from CPT Capital, Stray Dog Capital, and Veg Capital. Both Nagarajah and Reynnolds paired up during the Entrepreneur Frist company builder program in London.

 

SuperMeat

Agronomics announced the firm invested $2 million in Israeli startup SuperMeat. Based in Tel Aviv, SuperMeat is an Israeli cellular agriculture company working on producing cell-based chicken. Founded in 2015, SuperMeat is among some of the first companies in the world dedicated to making the future of food with cellular agriculture. 

In November 2020,  SuperMeat launched the first cell-based meat restaurant experience at its test kitchen, The Chicken. As the first test kitchen serving cell-based meat, The Chicken serves a range of cell-based chicken dishes, including its signature cell-based chicken burger In January 2018, SuperMeat raised $3 million in its seed funding round, including an investment from PHW-Gruppe, Europe’s largest poultry producer.

 

CellX

Investment firm Agronomics announced the firm invested $50,000 into new cell-based meat company CellX’s pre-seed funding round. Based in Hangzhou, China, CellX is a new startup that aims to develop cell-based seafood and pork from cell cultures. Along with Agronomics, other investors in the pre-seed round include Lever VC China Fund, Humboldt Fund, Purple Orange Ventures, and Brinc. CellX aims to unveil its first product prototype during the second quarter of 2021.

 

Matrix Meats

Matrix Meats announced the startup completed its seed funding round. Based in Columbus, Ohio, Matrix Meats is a new startup that uses its nanofiber technology to develop scaffolding to help build the future of food with cell-based meat

While undisclosed, Matrix Meats’ oversubscribed seed round was led by Unovis Asset Management and featured investments from CPT Capital, Siddhi Capital, Clear Current Capital, and a special purpose vehicle led by Ikove Startup Nursery Fund. Matrix Meats began as a joint venture partnership between Ikove Startup Nursery and Nanofiber Solutions.

Scaffolding is one of the major scaling obstacles for cell-based meat production, and it is great to see Matrix Meats develop a nanofiber scaffolding to provide structural support to make complex meat products like a cell-based steak or chicken breast. According to the press release, Matrix Meats is actively developing relationships with 15 cell-based meat startups across 7 countries with its scaffolding technology.

The First Regulatory Approval for Cell-Based Chicken in Singapore

On December 2nd, Singapore became the first country in the world to give regulatory approval for the sale of the first cell-based meat product by Eat Just.

Photograph by Eat Just

Founded by Josh Tetrick and Josh Balk, Eat Just is an alternative protein company that uses cellular agriculture to grow cell-based meat, specifically chicken. By growing cells that become meat from an animal, Eat Just can make the same chicken meat. Without requiring the chicken.

After working with the SFA for the last two years, Eat Just’s cultured chicken has been approved as an ingredient in chicken bites. According to the company, instead of only looking at the end product, the SFA looked at the entire production process to produce cell-based meat.

As a result, Eat Just’s team prepared extensive documentation on the characterization of its cultured chicken and the process to produce it, including purity, stability of chicken cells during the manufacturing process, and a detailed description of the manufacturing process.

In addition, by running over 20 production runs, Eat Just demonstrated its consistent manufacturing process to meet quality controls for chicken meat and a rigorous food safety monitoring system. 

In the end, the SFA confirmed Eat Just’s cultured chicken meat met the safety and quality validations of standard poultry meat, including high protein content, high relative amount of healthy monounsaturated fats, and an extremely low and significantly cleaner microbiological content than conventional meat. 

Eat Just’s chicken was also confirmed to be nutritious and safe for human consumption by a distinguished panel of international scientific authorities in Singapore and the United States with expertise in a range of fields, including allergenicity, cell biology, and food safety.

Photograph by Eat Just

After SFA’s approval, Eat Just plans to bring its cell-based chicken to market. Eat Just formed a strategic partnership with local manufacturer Food Innovation and Resource Center to initially produce its cell-based chicken and formulate the finished product ahead of its first sale to a restaurant in Singapore. 

On Saturday, December 19, 2020, history was made at the 1880 Restaurant in Singapore: the sale and purchase of the first cultured meat chicken bites by Eat Just. Sold for $23 each, the cultured chicken bites were served to several young people between the ages of 14 and 18 who have shown commitment to building a sustainable food system. 

The three dishes served were influenced by a top chicken-producing country: China, Brazil, and the United States. The 1880 Restaurant’s menu will feature the Good Meat cultured chicken in the new year.

 

Perfect Day To Set Up Lab in Singapore

A few weeks after Singapore approved the sale of cell-based meat, Perfect Day announced the animal-free dairy company signed an agreement to set up a research and development lab in the country. Opening in 2021, the lab will support Perfect Day’s global research activities, including the specificity and consistency of its cell ag dairy products. In April 2020, Perfect Day received GRAS status in the US to bring its animal-free whey protein to market. Will Singapore be its first global market?

 

 

MeaTech Prints Cell-Based Beef Fat

Israeli cell-based meat company MeaTech announced that the company successfully printed a cell-based beef fat structure composed of bovine fat cells and bioink. The successful bioprinting was a milestone for the company as it aims to ultimately produce cell-based meat through its 3D printing technology. 

MeaTech also shared the company agreed to the terms to acquire European cell-based fat startup Peace of Meat for EUR 15 million. As part of the agreement, MeaTech will pay half of the amount immediately and rest upon completion of technological milestones over the next two years. This is the first acquisition in the cell-based meat sector.

 

Israeli Prime Minister tries Aleph Farms’ Steak

“It’s delicious and guilt-free, I can’t taste the difference.” This week, Israeli Prime Minister visited Aleph Farms and sampled Aleph Farms’ cultivated steak. The first head of state to taste meat grown via cellular agriculture, the visit also included a presentation by Aleph Farms’ co-founder and CEO Didier Toubia about the organization’s plans to sustainably produce cell-cultured meat. The visit follows Singapore’s regulatory approval of Eat Just’s cell-based chicken bites.

 

 

Ironman supports New Harvest

It’s the ultimate crossover event.  Cellular agriculture nonprofit New Harvest recently shared that Robert Downey Jr’s FootPrint Coalition made a charitable donation to the organization. The grant from Ironman’s coalition will support New Harvest’s cultured meat safety initiative: a collaboration of cell-based meat companies and safety experts to generate independent, credible data about the safety of cultured meat production. Check out the FootPrint Coalition’s great video about the benefits of cellular agriculture narrated by Ironman himself!

Cellular Agriculture: Working with New Harvest from FootPrint Coalition on Vimeo.

 

Cellular Agriculture Makes Forbes 30-Under-30 List

For the third year in a row, cellular agriculture leaders featured on the Forbes 30 Under 30 listing. Unlike other years, leaders from two cellular agriculture companies featured on the listing. Michelle Egger, co-founder and CEO of Biomilq, featured in the Forbes 30-Under-30 Lising of Social Impact Entrepreneurs alongside Michael Selden and Brian Wyrwas, co-founders of Finless Foods

The list commemorates innovative founders and startups, and it’s great to see both Biomilq’s and Finless Foods’ founders were recognized for their incredible work to change the future of food. Previously, both Clara Foods’ Arturo Elizondo and Perfect Day’s Ryan Pandya and Perumal Gandhi featured on the Forbes listing.

 

Peace of Meat conducts Survey for Cultivated Fat

In a survey conducted by Peace of Meat, the cell-based fat company found that 58% of plant-based meat companies (50 respondents) were likely or very likely to use cultivated meat ingredients, including cultivated fat, in their products. Interestingly, up to 68% of plant-based meat producers would likely or very likely incorporate cultivated fat into their products if it fills the gaps in taste, texture, and clean labeling. In March 2020, Peace of Meat showcased its hybrid chicken nugget, consisting of its cell-based fat and plant-based ingredients.

FDA Requests Information for Labeling Foods with Cultured Seafood Cells

How should cell-cultured seafood be labelled in the United States? The FDA recently announced it is requesting input on labeling of foods made with cell-cultured seafood cells. Along with labelling, government regulation has been a major question moving forward for the cellular agriculture field, particularly for cell-based meat companies, and it is promising to see the FDA seek input before making a decision

In July, cell-based seafood company BlueNalu hired Dr. Bill Hallman of Rutgers University to conduct a study to help address the labelling question. According to over 3,000 Americans, the study found that ‘cell-based’ may be the most suitable common or usual name of seafood grown directly from cells. Interestingly, the study found that more than half of American consumers surveyed assumed the term ‘cultivated’ meant that the product was farm-raised.

 

XPRIZE Looks at the Future of Food

XPrize launched its latest competition looking at alternative proteins to develop a sustainable future food system. Called ‘Feeding the Next Billion’, the XPrize competition is a four-year, $15 million competition to incentivize teams around the world to produce chicken breast or fish fillet alternatives that replicate and outperform conventional chicken and seafood in taste, texture, nutrition, and health. Kate Kreuger, consultant at Helikon and former Research Director at New Harvest, joins the XPrize team as the Cultivated Protein Expert.

 

Tyson’s Raised & Rooted Goes Plant-Based

Following Beyond Meatsincredible public offering in May 2019, Tyson Foods announced its plans to enter the plant-based food space by launching its Raised & Rooted brand. And now, after reflecting on its success, Tyson Foods announced it will remove egg whites from its plant-based nuggets and discontinue its hybrid blend of both plant-based and conventional meat. While confident about the blend concept, Tyson Foods will develop exclusively plant-based products under the Raised & Rooted brand.

Conclusion

On December 14th, CellAgri hosted the ‘Cellular Agriculture: End of Year Summit’ to highlight the incredible accomplishments the field achieved in 2020. From record investments and new product showcases to the Singapore regulatory approval, these latest funding rounds highlight how 2020 has been a historic and successful year for cellular agriculture.  

2020 may become recognized as the year where cellular agriculture became more than just an idea. It became part of the future of food.

At the same time, it’s important to recognize the field’s fortune in these precarious times. These milestones were achieved during a year that has been hard and filled with uncertainty for many as they faced the devastating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. While we can celebrate the successes of the field, it does not mean the field’s progress was inevitable, especially in a crisis like the pandemic.

In a year where many startups raised record funding from investors, Ocean Huger Foods’ story highlights what could have happened if cellular agriculture startups relied on selling its products to stay afloat. In April 2020, the plant-based seafood company shut down due to a lack of restaurant and food service sales.

If the companies had to rely on selling high-end, premium cell-based meat products in the midst of a pandemic, would the field be where it is today? Unlikely, and it highlights the fortune that the field had with its increasing and growing investor support.

Moving into 2021, there is plenty of excitement for where the field can move and continue to advance. With a regulatory framework established in Singapore, it is likely that more cell-based meat companies will look to bring their products to market in the country.

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