Following the solid start to 2022 in January with new investments and partnerships, February continued the cellular agriculture field’s momentum into the new year.
Along with several cell-based meat and seafood announcements, this February showcased many breakthroughs and progress from the acellular agriculture sector of the cellular agriculture field. Compared to growing and harvesting the animal cells to produce meat products, acellular agriculture (also known as precision fermentation) focuses on cultivating and harvesting animal proteins from cell-cultured microorganisms.
From over seven investment announcements to new product partnerships, we look at what happened this February 2022 in cellular agriculture.
Cell-cultured seafood startup Wildtype announced that the company raised a massive $100 million in Series B funding. Based in San Francisco, Wild Type is a cell-cultured seafood startup working on producing sushi-grade salmon.
According to the announcement, Wildtype’s funding round was led by private equity firm L Catterton and featured new investments from Cargill, Temasek, Leonardo DiCaprio, Bezos Expeditions, and Robert Downey Jr.'s FootPrint Coalition.
The largest funding round to date for a cell-cultured seafood startup, the new financing brings Wildtype’s total funding to at least $116 million. In October 2019, Wildtype raised $12.5 million in Series A funding and previously raised $3.5 million in their seed round in March 2018.
Wildtype plans to use the funding round to continue improving its cell-cultured salmon and scaling up its production capacity. After launching the first operational cell-based seafood pilot plant in June 2021, Wildtype plans to launch a larger facility later this year to support a commercial launch of its cell-cultured salmon.
Regarding regulation, Wildtype shared that the company has been in regular contact with the FDA for its pre-market consultation process. Once complete, the company shared it will aim to launch its cell-cultured salmon in the US. In December 2021, Wildtype signed distribution agreements with grocery store sushi bar operator Snowfox and the restaurant chain Pokeworks.
Cell-cultured dairy startup Better Dairy raised $22 million in Series A funding to develop animal-free cheeses via acellular agriculture. Based in London, Better Dairy aims to use acellular agriculture (also known as precision fermentation) to produce cell-cultured hard cheeses.
The largest funding round to date for a UK-based cellular agriculture startup, Better Dairy aims to use the funding round to advance its technology platform as well as expand its team and move into a new lab and office space. Better Dairy shared that producing hard cheeses requires a more complex process than soft cheeses.
The funding round was co-led by RedAlpine and Vorwerk Ventures and featured other investors, including Happiness Capital, Manta Ray, and Stray Dog Capital. In December 2020, Better Dairy raised £1.6 million ($2.13 million) in seed funding.
Cell-cultured dairy startup Change Foods announced the company raised an additional $12 million in seed funding.
Based between Australia and the United States, Change Foods is the first startup in the Asia-Pacific region to focus on using cellular agriculture to produce cell-cultured dairy products. By designing microorganisms to make the same dairy proteins found in cheese, Change Foods aims to produce the same dairy cheeses without requiring cows.
The largest total seed funding round to date for a cellular agriculture food startup, Change Foods’ expanded seed round was led by Route 66 Ventures and also featured investments from Upfield, Orkla, Better Bite Ventures, and Blue Horizon Ventures.
According to the announcement, the latest seed extension round brings Change Food’s total funding to date to $15.3 million. Change Foods previously raised $2.1 million in its initial seed financing in June 2021 and approximately $1 million in pre-seed funding in 2020.
In addition to the funding announcement, Change Foods announced two strategic collaborations with food manufacturers Upfield and Sigma. Upfield is the world’s largest plant-based food manufacturer, and Sigma is a global food producer and distributor within Europe, the US, and Latin America.
Change Foods envisions that the collaborations will enable the startup to bring its animal-free dairy cheese products to market with accelerated timelines and built-in global scalability and distribution through the partnerships.
South Korean startup SeaWith announced the company raised ₩6.5 billion (approx. US $5.43 million) in Series A funding to develop cell-based meat. By using microalgae technology as a key component in the cell culture medium and scaffolding, SeaWith aims to address a significant cost and scaling pain point for the cell-based meat sector.
Moving forward, SeaWith plans to use the funding round to focus on investing in production facilities and commercialization efforts. Pending regulatory approval, SeaWith aims to launch its first cell-based meat product to consumers by the end of 2022 in a pilot restaurant. In August 2021, SeaWith shared that the company aims to produce cell-based steaks for as low as $3 per kilogram by 2030.
CellulaREvolution announced the startup raised £1.75 million in funding to advance how cell-based meat can grow at scale in reactors. A spinout from Newcastle University in England, CellulaREvolution aims to make culturing cells more efficient and affordable through its bioreactor technology.
CellulaREvolution’s funding round was led by Happiness Capital and featured other investors, including Allusion One. The startup aims to use the funding round to accelerate its research and development for its bioreactor technology and boost its commercial team as the startup prepares to take its technologies to market. CellulaREvolution previously announced £1 million in funding in February 2021.
New startup Daisy Lab raised NZD 250,000 (approx. USD 168,000) in funding to develop animal-free dairy in Auckland, New Zealand. Founded by Irina Miller and Dr. Nikki Freed, Daisy Lab uses acellular agriculture to produce cell-cultured dairy proteins.
The company plans to focus on developing the dairy protein casein, a key component of dairy cheese. Daisy Lab stated its goal to start commercializing its cell-cultured dairy proteins by the end of 2022. Daisy Lab raised the funding round from K1W1 and Icehouse Ventures.
Australian startup All G Foods announced an investment from W23, the venture capital and growth fund operated by Woolworths Group. While undisclosed, the investment was a multi-million dollar investment to further support All G Foods’ work to develop acellular dairy proteins and plant-based meats.
The company shared that the new investment from Woolworths will support developing a large cell-cultured dairy precision fermentation facility in two to three years. In September 2021, All G Foods raised $11.4 million (AUD 16 million) in seed funding.
New Spanish cell-cultured dairy startup Real Deal Milk announced the company received a grant from the government of Catalonia in Spain. As one of the Startup Capital grant recipients, Real Deal Milk receives €75,000 to help the company continue to grow its novel technology.
At the end of October, Real Deal Milk shared it was one of four startups selected for the new incubator Mylkcubator run by the innovation arm of Spanish dairy company Calidad Pascual. Previously, Spanish cell-based meat startup Biotech Foods received grant funding from the Spanish government.
Cell-cultured collagen company Geltor announced that the company has scaled its production platform for animal-free collagen to a commercial scale. Based in San Leandro, California, Geltor is a biodesign company that uses cellular agriculture to grow animal-free collagen proteins. Traditionally sourced from the bones and skin of livestock animals or fish, Geltor’s collagen via cellular agriculture offers an alternative way to produce the same animal protein products.
According to the announcement, Geltor carried out a five-month, commercial-scale run of its PrimaColl ingredient product in partnership with Arxada, a global specialty chemicals business that was formerly part of the Lonza Group. In under two years, Geltor’s partnership with Arxada scaled Geltor’s acellular agriculture production capacity from tens of thousands of liters to millions of liters.
Geltor first announced its PrimaColl product line in June 2021 as the first company’s first product for the food and nutrition markets. At the time, Geltor shared that PrimaColl is the exact match to the bioactive core of Type 21 collagen, a rare type of collagen found in less than 1% of the body.
German cell-cultured dairy company Formo announced a new partnership with biotechnology company Brain Biotech to scale the production of its animal-free dairy proteins. Formerly known as Legendairy Foods, Formo aims to produce the same dairy cheeses without requiring cows.
According to the partnership, Formo will scale up its cell-cultured dairy protein production by leveraging Brain Biotech’s expertise in genome editing and its proprietary BEC platform. In addition, the exclusive collaboration aims to help Formo optimize its microorganism cell lines via genome editing to scale the production of its dairy proteins ultimately.
After announcing a range of partnerships in November 2021, cell-cultured dairy company Perfect Day partnered with the new food brand Betterland Foods to use its cell-cultured dairy proteins to launch a cow-free dairy milk product.
Called Betterland Milk, the cell-cultured milk will contain Perfect Day’s cell-cultured whey proteins to have the same functional properties as conventional milk, including frothing, foaming, baking, and steaming. Betterland Milk aims to launch in the spring in the US.
Beyond the partnership, global coffee chain Starbucks previously announced that the company is testing cell-cultured milk produced by Perfect Day in two locations in the Seattle Area.
South Korean startup Space F unveiled the latest edition of its cell-based pork prototype (German weisswurst) as well as new beef (meatballs and patty) and chicken (fillets and nuggets) prototypes. Space F has focused on creating cultured meat without using fetal bovine serum in its cell culture media formulation and shared that the startup now uses a ‘serum-free’ medium.
In August 2021, Space F raised $6.3 million in Series A funding to accelerate its research and development. Last year, the startup formed a partnership with Daesang Corporation and aims to launch its first commercial products by 2025.
Aleph Farms announced that the cell-based meat company moved into its new headquarters in Rehovot, Israel. The new facility is 65,000 square feet and will enable Aleph Farms to launch its pilot production facility, build a state-of-the-art R&D center, and an open community center.
Along with the new facility, Aleph Farms announced a new incubator department called Aleph Frontiers. This incubator will serve as a pipeline for new products while also exploring new concepts for product development. The company aims for its pilot facility to be operational by this summer, and, pending regulatory approval, Aleph Farms will aim for an initial market launch around the end of 2022. With a new facility, the company plans to expand its team to more than 100 people.
Israeli cell-based dairy startup Wilk Technologies shared that the company received approval for its patent application in the US. Formerly known as BioMilk, Wilk’s patent covers both animal and breastmilk production using the company’s technology platform. Moving forward, Wilk plans to submit more patents as it looks to pinpoint techniques that maximize milk yield from its mammary cells. In April 2021, Wilk Technologies became the first cell-based dairy company to go public via the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange.
Formo also announced the publication of a new consumer perception study around using precision fermentation (also known as acellular agriculture) to produce cell-cultured dairy in February.
According to the joint study alongside Mercy for Animal and Fordham University, the study interviewed different focus groups around the world to qualitatively understand consumer attitudes toward cell-cultured dairy.
Overall, once explained how and why companies are working on producing foods via cellular agriculture, the study found that consumers were enthusiastic and interested in cell-cultured dairy. Interestingly, the study found the focus groups preferred the term ‘animal-free dairy’ to describe cell-cultured dairy.
At the same time, considering that the study simply explored public perceptions without evaluating the public’s viewpoint, many questions remain unanswered.
For example, the study found that the focus groups preferred animal-free dairy to describe cell-cultured dairy and cheese products. However, how can that term differentiate cell-cultured dairy from a plant-based dairy product or any other alternative to conventional dairy made in an animal-free manner?
In addition, consumers perceived that cell-cultured dairy would not be competitive with conventional dairy products. While that may be true for companies that receive dairy proteins to produce cheese, it may not be the reality for dairy farmers or corporations that sell dairy protein as a byproduct of milk production.
Israeli cell-based meat startup Meatech 3D announced that the company successfully differentiated its stem cell lines to muscle fibers. Before this announcement, MeaTech shared in September that the company also developed a stem cell technology that uses plant inputs to differentiate its cell lines into fat cells. In March 2021, MeaTech 3D became the first publicly traded cell-based meat company.
After raising the largest funding round to date for a cell-based meat company in December 2021, Future Meat Technologies announced the appointment of Nicole Johnson-Hoffman as its new Chief Executive Officer. Before joining Future Meat, Johnson-Hoffman was a managing director at OSI Europe and previously held positions at McDonald’s Corp and Cargill. After opening its pilot plant in Israel in June 2021, the company is scouting for locations to build its larger-scale facility in the US.
Molecular spirits, anyone? Endless West announced the company raised $60 million in Series C funding to produce alcoholic beverages by replicating their molecular structures. Endless West aims to use the funding round to expand production capacity by 10x to 20x to work with other spirit brands to help them cut back on production costs while boosting sustainability. Endless West aims to work with different brands and spirit makers through its research and manufacturing branch, Blank Collective. In April 2021, Endless West raised $21 million in Series B funding.
Like February 2021 last year, this February featured seven funding rounds to continue the flow of investments into the cellular agriculture food field. Along with product showcases and new products, the cellular agriculture field is undoubtedly carrying on its momentum into the new year, particularly for cell-cultured dairy players.
With a new partnership and funding round, Change Foods’ announcements continue a solid start to the year for cell-cultured dairy startups. In January 2022, Israeli startup Remilk raised $120 million in Series B funding to develop its cell-cultured dairy products.
Formo’s announcement also continued the trend of cell-cultured dairy companies forming partnerships to scale the production of their cell-cultured proteins before coming to market. Throughout 2021, for example, Singapore-based TurtleTree Labs developed a range of partnerships to increase the production of its cell culture media and scale its production platform.
In addition, before launching the first cellular agriculture food product to market, Perfect Day originally formed a partnership with ADM to scale the production of its dairy proteins in November 2018.
With Better Dairy’s large Series A funding round, the cell-cultured dairy sector has now raised over $1 billion in investments alone to make dairy more sustainable via cellular agriculture. The milestone highlights the cellular agriculture field’s potential to create a range of dairy products directly from cell cultures in a more efficient manner. For the future of food.
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