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September 2020: The Month in Review

After a productive summer for the field, September was a strong end to the third quarter of 2020 for the cellular agriculture industry. 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 to meet the growing demand for animal products globally.

From Europe’s largest cellular agriculture investment to the first cell-based meat acquisition, the cellular agriculture field continued to advance this September. We take a look at all the landmarks that happened this September in cellular agriculture. 

Investments

Mosa Meat

Mosa Meat announced the company raised a massive $55 million (EUR 47M) in its Series B funding round. Based in Maastricht, Netherlands, Mosa Meat’s Series B financing was led by Blue Horizon Ventures. The funding round also featured investors from Bell Food Group, M Ventures, and other mission-driven groups. 

The funding round brings Mosa Meat’s total disclosed funding to $63.8 million. In July 2018, Mosa Meat raised $8.8 million (EUR 7.5M) in Series A funding. With the latest round, Mosa Meat is the second cell-based meat startup to raise a Series B round. In January, Memphis Meats announced a massive $161 million in its Series B funding round.

Interestingly, Mosa Meat's Series B is the largest funding round for a European cellular agriculture company, and the funding round more than doubles all disclosed investments into European cellular agriculture companies to date.

Mosa Meat plans to use the funding round to expand its team, extend its pilot plant facility, and develop an industrial-sized production line. In addition, Dr. Regina Hecker from Blue Horizon Ventures will join Mosa Meat’s Board of Directors and will assist Mosa Meat in a range of areas, most notably scaling and regulation. 

The funding announcement continues Mosa Meat’s great summer. 

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 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. Pilot plant development is an important stepping stone for cell-based meat companies to validate how their production process will look like before moving to a larger facility, and Mosa Meat plans to produce their first products for market in this facility in the years to come.

 

Shiok Meats

Shiok Meats announced that the company raised $12.6 million in their Series A funding round. 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 seafood, like shrimp and other crustaceans, via cellular agriculture. 

According to the press release, Shiok Meats will use the funding round to build its pilot plant facility. The pilot plant would make Shiok Meats the first company to have a fully functioning commercial pilot plant for cell-based crustacean meat production. After showcasing the first cell-based shrimp product in March 2019, Shiok Meats aims to launch its first shrimp product to market by 2022.

The latest funding round brings Shiok Meats’ total funding to $20.2 million. In June, Shiok Meats announced a bridge financing round of $3 million.

The First Cell-Based Meat Acquisition

This month, we saw the first acquisition in the cell-based meat field.

Israeli cell-based meat startup MeaTech announced that the company signed a memorandum of understanding to acquire an unnamed international company producing cultured fat tissue for $17.5 million.

Based in Israel, MeaTech is a cellular agriculture company looking to produce cell-based meat through its 3D printing technology.

According to the announcement, the unnamed cultured fat company has developed a technology platform to produce beef, chicken, and goose fat directly from stem cells. As 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.

The two companies aim to complete their due diligence and sign the final agreement by the end of September. The management of the acquired company will remain in place for at least two years to continue to develop its technology and combine it with MeaTech’s platform.

As the first acquisition by a cell-based meat company, this is a big milestone in the field. Even though the acquired company is unnamed, the deal shows that cellular agriculture companies are growing to the point where they can acquire other companies in the field to access their technological advancements.

 

Goat Cheeseburgers and Kangaroo Crystal Dumplings

Australian cell-based meat startup Vow Food partnered with Australian chef Neil Perry to create a trial menu using its cell-based meats in high-end cuisine. Based in Sydney, Vow Food is building a library of different cell lines from both domesticated and undomesticated animal species to explore for food production. From a goat cheeseburger slider and alpaca chili tarama to kangaroo crystal dumpling, Vow’s product showcase highlighted the range and diversity of different cell lines Vow Food is working on. 

Vow Food's cell-based goat cheeseburger

As Vow Food demonstrated, cell-based meat allows us to look beyond traditional livestock animals as sources of nutritious and tasty animal products. Without requiring animals in the production process, Vow can explore different types of animal meats and flavours that may never have been tried or considered before.

 

The Perfect Day to Moove

Perfect Day is mooving! The flora-based dairy protein company announced that it is moving its headquarters to Berkeley, California, from neighboring Emeryville. The company agreed to sublease 112,000 square feet of office and laboratory space from Aduro Biotech, a significant increase from its current office of 23,000 square feet. The move to a larger facility is a great sign for Perfect Day’s growth and progress in scaling the production of its animal-free dairy proteins. 

In July 2020, Perfect Day raised a massive $300 million in an expanded Series C round to bring its animal-free dairy proteins to market. Since making its initial Series C funding announcement in December 2019, Perfect Day shared in July that the company has doubled its ability to produce its flora-based dairy proteins while significantly reducing their costs years ahead of expectations. 

 

Pre-Ordering a Wild Type Cell-based Salmon

Wild Type announced that the company is opening up a pre-order to partner with selected chefs to incorporate their cell-based salmon. Based in San Francisco, Wild Type is a cell-based seafood startup working on producing sushi-grade salmon. From sushi and nigiri to sashimi, Wild Type aims to work with chefs across the country to make the best possible cell-based salmon for a wide range of foods. Last year, Wild Type showcased that its cell-based salmon can be used to be salmon tartare, ceviche, and salmon rolls.

BioBQ Launches in Texas

Cell-based brisket anyone? Based in Texas, new cellular agriculture startup BioBQ is looking to produce the barbecue favorite without using any animals in the process. Founded by Katie Kam and Janet Zoldan, the company aims to develop a unique cell scaffolding technology to help create the complex layers and marbling found in brisket. As the team looks to raise funding and carry on its research and development, they aim to make their cell-based brisket vision a reality by 2023.

 

Cellular Agriculture Canada Launches First Regulatory White Paper with Government Feedback

The non-profit Cellular Agriculture Canada published its white paper: “First Steps Towards a Regulatory Framework for Cultured Food Products in Canada”. The white paper outlines the initial steps of how a cellular agriculture food product could be regulated under the current novel foods pathway in the country.

A major landmark for the Canadian cellular agriculture field, the white paper is the first time a cellular agriculture organization has published a regulatory white paper with constant feedback from regulators.

Government regulation has been a major question moving forward for the field, particularly for cell-based meat companies, and it is promising to see Canadian regulators support Cellular Agriculture Canada’s work to develop a guide on how the field could be regulated in the country.

You can access the Cellular Agriculture Canada white paper here.

Disclosure: Ahmed is a co-founder of Cellular Agriculture Canada and contributed to Cellular Agriculture Canada’s regulatory white paper.

 

UC Davis receive US Government Grant for Cultured Meat Research

Earlier this month, the National Science Foundation announced funding for a research project related to cultured meat at UC Davis in California. As the first major US government grant for cellular agriculture research, this is a major breakthrough for the field.  The team of researchers at UC Davis in California will receive a $3.5 million grant over 5 years. The principal investigator receiving the grant, Dr. David Block, is also an advisor to New Harvest Research Fellow Ted O’Neill.

The Return of Ocean Hugger Foods?

After announcing it will close and cease operations in June, plant-based seafood company Ocean Hugger Foods shared it is exploring paths to relaunch the company. As a company that sold exclusively to food service customers, such as restaurants and cafeterias, Ocean Hugger Foods felt the severe impact of its clients closing for the lockdown. A recognizable name in the plant-based seafood field, Ocean Hugger Foods’ demise highlights the reality of the economic impact of the pandemic. How will other alternative protein startups manage through the pandemic?

 

In the World of Plants: Plant-based News Roundup

NotCo

At the start of September, Chilean plant-based milk and meat company NotCo announced that the company raised $85 million in funding to bring its products to the US. With a valuation of roughly $300 million, NotCo’s investment and entry into the US market highlights the growing global popularity of plant-based foods.

 

Green Monday

Green Monday, a plant-based meat company based in Hong Kong, shared that the company raised $70 million in their most recent funding round. The company behind the plant-based Omnipork, Green Monday’s financing is the largest funding round for an alt protein company in Asia. Green Monday aims to use the latest funding round to expand their manufacturing capabilities and explore further markets. Plant-based products today, cell-based tomorrow?

Impossible Foods

Plant-based meat company Impossible Foods announced the launch of its Impossible Sausage in Hong Kong. This is the Impossible Sausage’s first international debut outside of the United States. In addition, Impossible Foods announced its Impossible Burger is now available in Canada. Starting in a few restaurant chains, including White Spot and Cactus Club Cafe, Impossible Foods shared that the plant-based burger will be widely available for restaurants to order next month. In July, Impossible Foods announced its Impossible Ruger will be available at 2,100 Walmart stores in all 50 states.

Meati Foods

Alternative protein startup Meati Foods raised $28.2 million in its Series A funding round from 44 investors by using mycelium to produce its meat alternative. Mycelium is the root-like structure of mushrooms, and, beyond using it to produce meat alternatives, some startups are looking to use mycelium to develop scaffolding for both cell-based meats and plant-based products. Developing an appropriate scaffolding is an important step for cell-based meats to develop more complex products in the future, like steak or chicken.

Oatly

After raising a massive $200 million investment round in July, oat milk company Oatly is considering becoming a public company through an initial public offering in the first half of 2021. Considering that plant-based milks represent 14% of the US milk retail market, Bloomberg reports that an IPO would value Oatly as high as $5 billion. The growth of oat milk’s popularity highlights consumer interest in a great tasting and more sustainable alternative to conventional animal milk. Considering that Perfect Day announced an expanded Series C round in July, it’s clear there is a growing interest for alternatives to conventional dairy milk among investors.

 

The Alt Protein Conference

During the first week of September, CellAgri and Protein Directory organized the Alt Protein Conference. One of the goals of the conference was to bring the future of food ecosystem together in a virtual way. With over 300 live attendees, it’s great to see the Alt Protein Conference grow to become one of the events of the summer for the field.

From incredible sponsors to amazing speakers and exhibitors, we would like to thank everyone for making the virtual conference possible. From leaders across all sectors in plant-based and cellular agriculture, we were very fortunate to have had so many experts share all their thoughts and insights with all of our attendees.

You can watch the recordings from the Alt Protein Conference here.

Conclusion

From a large funding round for Mosa Meat to the first cell-based meat acquisition to advancements in the non-profit space, September was a strong end to the third quarter for cellular agriculture. 

Before introducing its cell-based beef to customers, Mosa Meat plans to work with European regulators to demonstrate the safety of its cell-based meat in order to receive regulatory approval for its novel product. Government regulation has been a major question moving forward, particularly for cell-based meat companies, and it will be important for Mosa Meat and other European players to clearly communicate the benefits of their technology to improve our food system.

Mosa Meat’s Series B funding round continues a year of large funding rounds for cellular agriculture companies. Following Memphis Meat’s Series B, Perfect Day raised $300 million in its Series C round and Geltor raised $91.3 million in Series B funding in July. 

Including Mosa Meat’s latest funding round, the total funding in cellular agriculture companies focusing on food has surpassed $1 billion, of which approximately half was raised in 2020 alone.

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