Scaling Cell-Based Meat: The Startups Changing the Future of Food

In August, Big Idea Ventures presented their next class of startups.

Running accelerator programs out of both New York and Singapore, Big Idea Ventures is a global venture capital firm supporting early-stage startups exploring the future of food with plant-based foods and cellular agriculture.

In its latest class of startups, it's interesting to see new cellular agriculture players working towards scaling the entire cell-based meat industry. 

We take a look at some of Big Idea Venture’s latest class of startups that participated in the recent Alt Protein Conference looking to build the future of food with cellular agriculture.

Orbillion Bio

Orbillion Bio is a new cellular agriculture startup working to develop and provide cell lines to help scale the cell-based meat industry.

A cell line refers to all the cells that emerge from the division of an original cell in a cell culture. In cellular agriculture, researchers are looking for a stable stem cell line that could (ideally) divide indefinitely into more cells to produce cell-based meat. These cell lines would then become the stable source of all other stem cells and differentiated cells that produce cell-cultured meat. 

 
Once a stable cell line is found and becomes widely available for animals of interest (like cows, pigs and chickens), sourcing of stem cells to make cell-based meat will no longer be an obstacle.

Based in Berkeley, San Francisco, Orbillion Bio aims to accelerate the speed of cell line development with their unique technology platform. Orbillion Bio ultimately aims to supply cell lines from different heritage breeds that are tasty and more adept to grow in cell cultures to different cell-based meat producers. For the next year, the startup aims to optimize its technology platform and develop and establish more cell lines from heritage animal breeds.

Biftek

Based in Ankara, Turkey, Biftek is the first cellular agriculture company performing its research and development in the country. Incorporated in Delaware in the US, Biftek is working on designing plant-based growth serum alternatives that will make cell-based meat cheaper and animal-friendly.

The cell culture media is the nutritious mixture that cells grow in, which includes the cell culture serum. The cell culture media provides all of the nutrients and growth factors that cells may need to replicate or differentiate into another cell type. There are currently two main obstacles in scaling serum: its sourcing and price.

In many scientific labs, a common cell culture serum used to grow cells is fetal bovine serum. Not only would this still involve animal sourcing in the production process, fetal bovine serum is inconsistent from batch to batch as well as very costly. Animal-free serums have been developed for medical purposes, but the problem of costliness remains for scaling production.

According to Biftek, approximately 90% of the overall cost to produce cell-cultured meat is due to fetal bovine serum in the production process. By using plant-based ingredients to develop its serum, Biftek believes its animal-free and cost-effective solution will play a key role in helping scale cell-based meat production.

Novel Farms

Novel Farms is a new cellular agriculture startup looking to develop an edible scaffolding to advance the development of complex cell-based meat products.

When a building is under construction, it is surrounded by scaffolding for structural support. In this way, the scaffolding outlines how the building will look, providing structure and support. 

Similarly, in cellular agriculture, scaffolding provides structural support to cells by outlining the composition and shape of the cell-cultured meat product. This is important to make sure that the cells grow into meat products that have the same taste, texture, and shape as conventional meat. Scaffolding also promotes the growth of larger muscle fibers needed to scale production.
 
Part of the New York cohort, Novel Farms is looking to develop an inexpensive, tunable scaffold for the production of marbled cell-based meat delicacies for the next generation of ethical foodies.

Along with producing and supplying scaffolding to other players in the cell-based meat industry, Novel Farms also plans to create their own cell-based meat product line: Iberico ham (also known as Jamón Ibérico).

Conclusion

As the cellular agriculture industry continues to grow and expand globally, it’s great to see so many innovative startups looking to change the future of food.

In particular, it’s notable that these startups are working to address key scaling pain points for the cell-based meat industry, such as cell line development, cell culture media formulation, and scaffolding for structure and taste. By addressing these challenges through their products and services, these new players are developing a whole ecosystem and value chain around the future of food with cellular agriculture.

In their role as innovators making cell-based meat scalable, it was incredible to have all the above companies take part of the Alt Protein Conference, a two-day virtual conference taking a look at the new wave of food companies transforming our food system, which was organized by CellAgri and the Protein Directory. Great to have all the companies on board as part of the conference’s Scaling Technologies in Cell-Based Meat panel.

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