After a strong start to the fourth quarter in October, November continued a strong end to the year for cellular agriculture. Cellular agriculture is the field of producing animal products, like meat or dairy, directly from cell cultures instead of raising animals for the same products. Compared to conventional livestock agriculture, cellular agriculture provides a more sustainable and environmentally-friendly way to produce animal products to meet the growing demand for animal products.
From new investment rounds to a wide range of product showcases, we take a look at what happened this November in cellular agriculture.
This month, MeaTech announced that the company closed a funding round of $7 million led by Psagot Provident and Pension Funds. Based in Israel, MeaTech is a cellular agriculture company looking to produce cell-based meat through its 3D printing technology.
The funding round follows MeaTech’s investment of €1 million ($1.2 million) into Peace of Meat as part of its plan to acquire the company. Upon completion of the final agreement and Peace of Meat achieving its pre-agreed technological milestones over the next two years, MeaTech will acquire Peace of Meat for $17.5 million in a combination of cash and MeaTech equity. As the first acquisition by a cell-based meat company, this is a big milestone in the cell-based meat field.
Investment firm Agronomics announced that the venture firm invested a further $5 million in cell-based seafood company BlueNalu. As part of the investment, Jim Mellon, a Non-Executive Director of Agronomics, has been granted the right to attend BlueNalu’s Board Meetings as an observer. Agronomics previously featured in BlueNalu’s $20 million Series A round earlier this year in February. Along with that, BlueNalu was named the runner-up of Syngenta’s Radicle Protein Challenge and secured a $250,000 investment.
In June, BlueNalu moved into its new facility of more than 38,000 square feet and will be designed for the commercial production of its cell-based seafood.
New cellular agriculture dairy startup Change Foods announced the close of its oversubscribed pre-seed funding round of $875,000. Based in both the US and Australia, Change Foods is the only startup in the Asia-Pacific region creating animal-free dairy through precision fermentation. The startup plans to use the financing to accelerate the development of its first animal-free dairy prototype in the United States.
Bond Pets announced the startup received a $250,000 grant from the state of Colorado as part of its Advances Industries Grant Program. Based in Boulder, Colorado, Bond Pets is a pet food startup that uses cellular agriculture to produce sustainable pet food. In August 2020, Bond Pets raised its bridge financing round and announced the startup created the first cultured chicken meat protein for its pet food. Bond Pets aims to scale up its prototype and work towards bringing a cultured chicken protein product to market by 2023.
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.
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. Interestingly, The Chicken does not charge customers for their meal. Instead, SuperMeat asks for feedback on its product as it prepares for large-scale production of its product.
While there is no regulatory framework established yet for cell-based meat, SuperMeat can serve its cell-based chicken for customer feedback while in product development. According to SuperMeat co-founder and CEO Ido Savir, customer feedback has been positive and many diners found its cell-based chicken burger indistinguishable from a conventional chicken burger.
Moving forward, SuperMeat aims to launch its cell-based chicken in restaurants in the next two years. In five years, Supermeat plans to launch commercial-scale plants and aims to reach price parity with conventional chicken meat shortly afterwards. At pilot plant capacity, SuperMeat can produce several hundred pounds of its cell-based chicken per week.
Based in Israel, Aleph Farms is a startup that uses cellular agriculture to grow cell-based meat, specifically steak. And on November 20th, in a virtual cooking demonstration at the Asia-Pacific Agri-Food Innovation Summit, Aleph Farms showcased its latest cell-based steak prototype. The session was hosted by VisVires New Protein, a Singaporean venture firm that led Aleph Farms’ Series A round in May 2019.
Since its first cell-based meat prototype in December 2018, Aleph Farms has beefed up its cell-based steak by increasing its size and adapting the meat to fit the company’s automated bioprocesses to ensure the production process can scale.
Along with announcing its latest prototype, Aleph Farms shared that the company is currently transitioning to its first pilot plant, dubbed the BioFarm. Aleph Farms aims to launch commercial production from the BioFarm by the end of 2022.
With that timeline, instead of coming to market quickly, the company is prioritizing coming out correctly by getting their product right and achieving cost-parity with conventional meat. According to co-founder and CEO Didier Toubia, “We have developed five technological building blocks unique to Aleph Farms that are put into a large-scale production process, all patented by the company.”
After first showing it is possible to produce a cell-based steak piece in 2018, it is promising to now see Aleph Farms explore the commercial expansion of its production process. In October 2019, Aleph Farms reached another frontier by growing the first piece of cell-based meat in outer space as part of an international collaboration.
At the start of November, new startup Jellatech announced its launch as the first cell-based collagen and gelatin company. Founded by Stephanie Michelsen and Kylie van Deinsen-Hesp, Jellatech uses cellular agriculture to produce animal-free collagen and gelatin.
Traditionally sourced from the bones and skin of livestock animals or fish, Jellatech’s collagen via cellular agriculture offers an alternative and more sustainable way to produce the same animal protein product from animal cells.
Supported by Big Idea Ventures and the rolling fund Sustainable Food Ventures, collagen and gelatin have many functions and are used to make a range of different products. From leather and cosmetics to food products, Jellatech aims to unlock the full functionality of collagen and gelatin by growing and harvesting the protein directly from animal cells.
Before launching, it was important for the Jellatech team to create a proof of concept of its cell-based collagen and gelatin. “Our first goal was to make a jelly out of jellyfish and other kinds of marine collagen,” co-founder and CSO van Deinsen-Hesp shared. “Last week, we did that.”
“We managed to make a small jelly out of marine collagen that we processed into gelatin, and that was really exciting.”
In the shape of a jellyfish with a bluish hue, the cell-based gummy appears to be the same size as a gummy bear candy. Jellatech now aims to improve their production process. “We’re hoping to make this a process that we can cost effectively and consistently produce very clean, ethical, and sustainable collagen and gelatin.”
Cell-based pork liver pâté, anyone? Earlier this month, New-York based cell-based meat startup Lab Farm Foods showcased three different prototypes: two types of chicken nuggets and a pork liver pâté.
In the tasting, one cell-based chicken nugget consisted of a 50:50 ratio of cultured chicken cells to plant-based protein, and the other cell-based chicken nugget was combined with conventional chicken meat. The company added the animal cells were cultured in a serum-free medium.
Cell-based seafood company Shiok Meats showcased the prototype of its latest product: cell-based lobster meat. Based in Singapore, Shiok Meats is the first cell-based meat startup in Southeast Asia. Founded by Sandhya Sriram and Ka Yi Ling, Shiok Meats plans to produce cell-based crustacean, like shrimp and lobster, via cellular agriculture.
And on November 20th, at an exclusive tasting event, Shiok Meats showcased two cell-based lobster dishes: lobster gazpacho and lobster terrine. This is the first showcasing of cell-based lobster meat ever. Shiok Meats also showcased the latest version of its cell-based shrimp meat.
Along with highlighting the versatility of its shrimp and lobster meat, Shiok Meats announced a partnership with Singapore Polytechnic to jointly advance food innovation in the cell-based meat and seafood sector in Singapore. This is the first Memorandum of Understanding between a cell-based meat company and a polytechnic in Singapore.
According to the partnership, Shiok Meats and Singapore Polytechnic will provide internship placements and on-the-job training for staff and students in food technology and support the development of infrastructure capabilities in cell-based meats and alternative proteins.
The product showcasing and partnership mark a strong end to the year for Shiok Meats. In September, the company raised its Series A round of $12.6 million after raising a $3 million bridge financing round in June. In addition, in July, Shiok Meats announced a partnership with IntegriCulture to scale production of its cell-based crustacean meat through IntegriCulture’s CulNet system.
Cell-based fish fillet, anyone? Hong Kong-based Avant Meats recently showcases its latest prototype: a cell-based fish fillet. This is the region’s first showcase of a cell-based fish fillet showcase. In October 2019, Avant Meats showcased the first ever cell-based fish maw product. Fish maw is the dried swim bladder of large fish, a popular dish in China and Southeast Asian cuisine. Avant Meats’ accomplishments highlight how cell ag can be used to develop a diverse range of products globally.
As more cell-based meat companies plan to scale production in the new year, Future Meat Technologies envisions being a technology-enabler and supplier for the cell-based meat sector. In this model, Future Meat envisions selling their equipment, technology and ingredients to larger protein companies, like Tyson Foods, to produce their own cell-based meat. By the end of the second quarter of 2021, Future Meat aims to produce half a ton of its cell-cultured fat every two weeks to use in a hybrid product combining plant protein and cell-based fat. In October 2019, Future Meat Technologies raised $14 million in Series A funding.
Perfect Day announced that the company partnered with Graeter’s Ice Cream, the oldest family-owned craft ice cream maker in the US, to launch an animal-free dairy ice cream. Called “Perfect Indulgence”, the frozen dessert is made using Perfect Day’s flora-based dairy proteins and is now available online on Graeter’s website and in shops as of December 1st, 2020.
Perfect Day’s latest partnership with Graeter’s marks the end to a remarkable year for the company. After first partnering with Smitten Ice Cream in May 2020, Perfect Day went on to raise the largest funding round to date for a cellular agriculture food company in July 2020. In October, Perfect Day announced Bob Iger, former CEO and executive chairman of the board of directors of The Walt Disney Company, will join its Board of Directors.
After announcing a partnership to open a manufacturing facility in Singapore for its plant-based egg product, future food company Eat Just co-founder and CEO Josh Tetrick went on CNBC to discuss the company’s future, including going public and strategic positioning. According to Tetrick, the company aims to become profitable in 2021 through its plant-based products, before exploring a potential IPO in 2022.
In October, Eat Just announced a partnership with investment firm Proterra to build its first Asian production facility and the largest of its kind in Singapore. The Proterra-led consortium will finance up to $100M and JUST will invest up to $20M to go towards the construction of the production plant to, one day, produce thousands of tonnes of its plant-based protein. JUST also shared they are in discussions with Proterra to focus on the commercialization of its cell-based meat.
In Europe, the devastating impact of Covid-19 has now resulted in the culling of millions of minks to prevent the spread of a mutated virus. While the focus of many cellular agriculture companies has been in the food industry, how can cellular agriculture move beyond just food and address furs and other biomaterials? Companies like Modern Meadow and VitroLabs are exploring how cell ag can be used to produce cell-cultured leather. Will we see more companies exploring applications for cell-cultured fur, like Furoid?
For creating a sustainable and animal-free dairy ice cream, Perfect Day featured on the Time’s Best Inventions of 2020 listing. As the first cellular agriculture food company to commercialize its product, it’s great to see Perfect Day recognized for its incredible work. In November 2018, Perfect Day co-founders Ryan Pandya and Perumal Gandhi were named in Forbes 30-Under-30 list of Social Entrepreneurs.
McDonald’s announced an exciting development: the launch of its own McPlant food line. Following the announcement, plant-based meat company Beyond Meat shared that the company co-developed the plant-based burger for the McPlant line. In September 2019, McDonald’s initially tested the Beyond Burger in southwestern Ontario as part of its P.L.T. sandwich.
In addition, Beyond Meat announced the launch of two new versions of its plant-based Beyond Burger: a juicer burger and another with 55% less saturated fat. By changing how its ingredients are processed, the company aims to appeal to a wider range of consumers. The company aims to launch the new burgers in early 2021.
Looking for the next big plant-based IPO, new blank cheque company Natural Order Acquisition Corp. submitted its filing to go public and raise $250 million in its own initial public offering. Since Beyond Meat’s historic IPO, investors have been looking for the next big future of food companies to bring to the public. In May 2019, when Beyond Meat went public, the company went beyond expectations and was one of the best public offerings by a company raising at least $200 million since the 2008 financial crisis. Plant-based today, cell-based tomorrow?
In a recent article, Ron Shigeta publicly shared a concept previously known as Shigeta’s Law. Formerly both IndieBio and Wild Earth, Shigeta’s Law highlights how the price of cell-based meat will continuously fall to reach parity with conventional meat faster than Moore’s Law predicts. From new funding rounds and new product showcases, November continued to bring cellular agriculture and cell-based meat one step closer to coming to market.
From Aleph Farm’s steak and Lab Farm Food’s pork liver pâté to Avant Meat’s fish fillet and Shiok Meat’s lobster meat, it is remarkable to see scientists and entrepreneurs around the world taking the initiative to build the future of food in their area and bring their own unique angle to the field.
Up until November, there had been 5 new cell-based product showcases in 2020. Including SuperMeat’s cell-based chicken burger, there were 6 new product showcases in November alone. The accelerating speed at which cellular agriculture companies are revealing new product showcases are prototypes highlights the advancements companies in the field are making. Along with the first restaurant experience by SuperMeat, cell-based meat is one step closer to coming to market. To change the future of food.
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