After a quarter that featured the largest funding round for a cellular agriculture food company, October was a strong start to the fourth quarter of 2020 for cellular agriculture. Cellular agriculture is the field of producing animal products, like meat and dairy, directly from cells without requiring animals to make them. Compared to conventional livestock agriculture, cellular agriculture offers an alternative and more sustainable way to produce the same animal products.
From new investments and details about the first acquisition to new regulatory advancements, we take a look at what happened this October in cellular agriculture.
In October, the European Union announced it allocated €2.7 million for cell-based meat research through its Horizon 2020 Framework Programme for Research and Innovation.
Known as the Meat4All project, the research programme is led by Spanish cell-based meat company Biotech Foods and also includes French biotech company Organotechnie.The research consortium aims to increase cell-based meat production capacity, conduct market research on consumer demand, and assess its safety to enable the industrialization and sale of cell-based meat in Europe. Biotech Foods will receive €1.1 million ($1.3 million) of the €2.7 million allocated to the project.
It is promising to see European governmental bodies continue to support companies developing the cellular agriculture ecosystem. In August 2020, Icelandic biotechnology company ORF Genetics received a €2.5 million grant from the European Commission’s Grant Management Services to use its barley platform to produce a range of growth factors for cell culture media production.
Along with that, in December 2019, Dutch cell-based meat company Meatable received $3 million from the European Commission through the Eurostar Programme. In addition, Peace of Meat received a grant of €1.2 million (US$1.33 million) from the Flemish government agency Agentschap Innoveren & Ondernemen in Belgium.
Cellular agriculture startup TurtleTree Labs announced that the company won the grand prize of $500,000 at the Entrepreneurship World Cup. Based in Singapore, TurtleTree Labs uses mammary gland cells to directly produce mammalian milk, such as human breast milk. Competing against 175,000 companies from around the world, this is a remarkable achievement for the dairy startup. In June 2020, TurtleTree Labs raised $3.2 million in its seed round of funding.
MeaTech is a cellular agriculture company looking to produce cell-based meat through its 3D printing technology. A key component of meat, fat tissue is an important ingredient to give cell-based meat the same taste and flavour of conventional animal meat. And Peace of Meat has developed a technology platform to produce beef, chicken and goose fat from stem cells.
Based in Belgium, Peace of Meat is a European cellular agriculture startup working on producing cell-cultured animal fats. In March 2020, Peace of Meat showcased its proof of concept in Berlin, Germany. In front of an audience of 100 people, Peace of Meat presented 3 chicken nuggets containing 20% of their cell-cultured fat and 80% plant-based ingredients.
According to the latest announcement, MeaTech invested €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 field. The deal shows cellular agriculture companies are maturing to the point where they can acquire other companies in the field to access their technological advancements.
Ryan Bethencourt and Mariliis Holm announced the launch of their new rolling fund, Sustainable Food Ventures (SFV), to advance the future of food. SFV is the first rolling fund on the AngelList platform to focus on cell-based, plant-based, and recombinant protein companies.
The idea behind SFV came to Bethencourt after angel investing in several early stage startups. “After being involved in several large venture capital funds, I was personally investing my own money into [early stage] founders. Shiok Meats is an example of a cheque that I cut personally out of my pocket. Since then, I’ve been doing more and more of that with companies both in the US and globally.
“When I saw some tech founders starting rolling funds to invest in software companies, I thought, ‘Well, wouldn’t it be great if we had something like that for the future of food? And so I decided to actually start that.’”
According to Bethencourt, compared to traditional fund structures, “A rolling fund is a way of democratizing access to investing in early stage companies. Typically, when you start a venture capital fund, the fund is basically locked the moment you announce it, so you can't bring new investors in.
“A rolling fund is essentially four separate funds, where, every quarter, there’s a new fund. It's a family of funds that fall under one primary fund. It allows you to talk actively about your fund, so people can actually invest in the fund if they like the types of companies you're investing in. Anyone can subscribe and actually start investing alongside you in the rolling fund.”
Based in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, SFV aims to support new foodtech startups in areas typically bypassed by most other investors in the US and globally. Beyond being the first investor for some of these startups, Bethencourt wants SFV to support new founders in their mission to change our food system.
“It's about much more than making money. It's about helping people build the future of sustainable food. Often these [early stage] founders do not have the support that they need.
“The future of food is a staggering opportunity, and I’m really excited to help those founders who may not be in the Bay Area or Silicon Valley or in the US.”
With over a billion dollars invested into cellular agriculture companies to date, Sustainable Food Ventures aims to continue supporting early stage founders and new startups building the future of food.
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. Filling the founder-designated board seat, Iger will be the first board member who is not Asian or Asian American on Perfect Day’s board. Other board members include Aftab Mathur from Temasek Holdings, Patrick Zhang of Horizon Ventures, and Perfect Day co-founders Ryan Pandya and Perumal Gandhi.
As the leader who oversaw the massive expansion of The Walt Disney Company, Iger is one of the most prominent businessmen in the world. In July, Perfect Day announced the expansion of its Series C round to an enormous $300 million to become the largest funding round to date for a cellular agriculture company making the future of food
Alternative protein company 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 its plenary sessions from October 19th to 22nd, the European Parliament voted on two amendments that could change how plant-based foods are labelled in Europe by banning them from using terms that have traditionally been used to describe animal products like meat and dairy.
Steak, sausage, yogurt-style, cheese alternative. If the amendments passed, plant-based products in the European Union will not be allowed to use names associated with meat products or use dairy descriptive terms.
The European Parliament’s Agriculture Committee first approved a ban on plant-based foods from using terms traditionally used to describe meat products in April 2019. Considering that the European Court of Justice previously barred plant-based products from using terms like milk, cream, and butter, it’s not surprising that the European Parliament is now going after plant-based meats and products using dairy descriptors.
Some of the suggested replacement terms for plant-based products include terms like veggie disk or cylinder. Don’t sound very appealing, does it?
While the regulation focuses on plant-based alternatives, it will be interesting to see what these regulatory stances will mean for the future of cellular agriculture in Europe.
Netherlands has been a leader in the field of cell-cultured meats from its early days. If the regulation passes in the European Parliament, only time will tell its impact on the emergence of cellular agriculture and plant-based startups in Europe.
In other words, the fight for the word meat continues.
In the end, the European Parliament voted against banning plant-based foods from using terms like burger, steak, and sausage. At the same time, the European Parliament voted in favour of tightening rules for plant-based dairy products, preventing them from using phrases like ‘milk-like’ or ‘cheese-style’.
At the same time as the labeling debate took place in Europe, cell-based meat and seafood regulatory coalition AMPS Innovation and the North American Meat Institute (NAMI) wrote a letter to the US Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). The organizations requested the FSIS to gather more data before publishing a proposed rule on how cell-based meat should be labelled in the US.
In the letter, AMPS Innovation and NAMI stated that labelling for cell-cultured meat products should be mandatory. Historically, when it comes to evaluating labeling of foods using novel technologies, FSIS and the USDA have looked at the characteristics of the final end product instead of the process by which the food was made.
In comparison, AMPS Innovation believes the characteristics of cell-cultured meat may vary based on the process or approach through which it is made. Therefore, the letter states more information is needed to determine how or whether the cell-based meat production process should impact labelling.
Moving forward, AMPS Innovation and NAMI recommend the FSIS issue an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) to get more information and supporting data on the finished product characteristics of cell-based meat. The information will provide FSIS substantive data to better inform the agency’s decision-making process. AMPS Innovation conceded that a challenge with an ANPR is that it may take quite some time, including for when a cell-based meat product is already prepared to come to market.
Government regulation has been a major question moving forward for the field, particularly for cell-based meat companies, and it is promising to see both AMPS Innovation and NAMI partner to propose a way forward on how to regulate cell-based meat in the US.
CellAgri is excited to share the launch of its Cellular Agriculture Investment Report Series!
No matter what you call it, cellular agriculture has taken the world by storm. And now we break it down for you.
The world was only introduced to the concept in 2013 with the showcasing of the first lab-grown beef burger in the city of London.
7 years later, over a billion dollars has been invested in the field of cellular agriculture. From new companies looking to change the future of food, the CellAgri Investment Report breaks down the numbers and shows how this novel technology already has over $1 billion invested in it.
The report breaks down the number of funded cellular agriculture companies into 2 groups: acellular foods and cell-based meats. The report shares valuable traction data and numbers from every top funded company in the field.
The Investment Report also addresses the cellular agriculture supply chain. In order for the field to get to scale and to market, it's absolutely critical to highlight the white spaces in the field's supply chain for both investors and interested companies. Most importantly, it is these pain points that need to be addressed in order to help the field progress.
Click here to get started and download your preview of the CellAgri Investment Report.
Cell-based meat company Aleph Farms announced the launch of its space program, Aleph Zero, to grow meat anywhere and everywhere, including outer space. As part of Aleph Zero, Aleph Farms plans to secure partnerships with technology companies and space agencies for long-term collaborative research and development contracts to explore cellular agriculture innovations in outer space. Aleph Farms aims to ultimately use its BioFarms, Aleph Farms’ large-scale cultivation facilities, in extraterrestrial environments to advance food security and produce food anywhere without requiring local resources.
Motif Foodworks announced that the company is preparing for commercial scale production of its first product - an ingredient to improve the flavour of beef substitutes. A spinoff from Ginkgo Bioworks, Motif Foodworks plans to produce animal proteins to improve the flavour and texture of plant-based products and to enhance cell-based meats and other cell ag products. The company aims to add its new flavoring for plant-based meats into consumer products by the fourth quarter of 2021.
Biomaterials company Bolt Threads announced partnerships with Stella McCartney, Kerin (the fashion house behind Gucci and Balenciaga), Lululemon, and Adidas to create the Mylo Consortium to use its innovative product. Unlike Bolt Threads' other products, Mylo is not made from spider silk. It's leather, made from mushrooms. Mylo is a leather material produced from mycelium, the root structure of mushrooms. The fashion companies aim to bring products with Bolt Threads’ Mylo to market in 2021.
While it is promising to see Bolt Threads partner to advance on its Mylo line, there has been no updates on its work with cell-cultured spider silk. In July 2019, Bolt Threads partnered with fashion designer Stella McCartney to present a prototype of a tennis dress for Adidas using their Microsilk. Bolt Threads previously partnered with Stella McCartney to debut their Mylo product line. In April 2018, Bolt Threads showcased their first Mylo leather bag for Stella McCartney at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
Based in France, Ÿnsect announced that the company raised a massive $372 million in Series C funding to develop the largest insect farm in the world north of Paris. According to the company, this is the largest ever funding round by a non-US agrifoodtech startup. What role will insect protein play in the future of food?
Vertical farm company Plenty announced that it raised a massive $140 million in funding. The round was led by SoftBank, which previously invested in Memphis Meats’ Series B, and includes berry company Driscoll’s Inc., which aims to explore how strawberries could be grown all-year round in vertical farms. With both promises of sustainability and technical bottlenecks to address, there are many lessons that the cellular agriculture field can learn from vertical farming companies. How has vertical farming advanced in the last 10 years, and how can cellular agriculture startups learn from them?
In a recent publication, researchers at Tufts University made cow muscle cells produce beta carotene, a provitamin usually found in carrots and tomatoes, by harnessing the same pathway used to produce golden rice. While a remarkable feat to make meat more healthy and nutritious, it will be important for consumers to accept the first line of meats grown directly from cells
From Asia and Europe to North America, cellular agriculture companies worked to advance the field globally this October. While regulation may continue to be an obstacle as cell-based meat companies look to come to market, it is promising to see AMPS Innovation in the United States engage stakeholders in both the FSIS as well as the meat industry. In addition, in spite of parallel action to limit labeling, it is promising to see European Union funding for cell-based meat research through its Horizon 2020 programme.
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