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Visiting the Future: New Culture

Visiting the Future is the start of a new series of brief interviews with cellular agriculture companies as Ahmed Khan visits their facilities as they share more about how they’re to produce the future of food.

On my first visit to California in four years to attend the Cultured Meat Symposium 2022, I had the opportunity to meet several cellular agriculture companies and see how they’ve grown since my last visit.

Based in San Leandro, California, New Culture uses cellular agriculture to produce the dairy protein casein, a key component of dairy cheese. By producing dairy proteins directly from cell cultures, New Culture aims to make the same dairy cheeses without requiring animals.

In August 2022, New Culture announced a strategic partnership with global food and ingredients supplier Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) to scale the production of its cell-cultured dairy proteins and accelerate its path to market.

I had the opportunity to speak to New Culture co-founders Matt Gibson and Inja Radman to learn more about their facility in San Leandro and their plans moving forward.

 Can you please tell us what New Culture is working on now? (Matt)

We are working on animal-free dairy cheese, specifically animal-free dairy mozzarella. And we're making a cheese that is truly indistinguishable from conventional mozzarella with its taste, texture, and function.

But even more than that, it's a better experience because it's lactose-free, cholesterol-free, and free of trace hormones or antibiotics. And most importantly, it is orders of magnitude more sustainable than the mozzarella you can currently buy in stores.

 We’re currently in San Leandro at New Cultures headquarters. Can you tell us a bit about the facility? (Inja)

Our facility here at our headquarters is our R&D center. It covers all of our areas of research, development, engineering, and some of the scale-up development. It spans all teams in our technical pipeline going from strain engineering all the way down to product.

All our development work happens here on-site, and teams collaborate very closely. When walking through with us, you can see how open access and inviting it is and promotes collaboration between teams.

All of our scale-up and manufacturing work happens in partnership externally with larger-scale facilities that work as contract manufacturing organizations. So here, we don't produce or manufacture large amounts of product, be it casein or our cheese, but we regularly produce both casein and cheese here for tasting optimization purposes.

As we wrap up 2022, what has been a highlight or milestone you’re happy the team achieved this year?  (Matt)

We came into 2022 with a team of 10. Now, we’re a team of 30. So, we've tripled the team.

What I'm most proud of is not that we've tripled the team but that we've still maintained the values we've had since the genesis of New Culture. That has allowed us to move fast, put kindness at the center of everything we do, and still be that mission-driven, scrappy, fast-paced, talented startup that has achieved everything we have to date. We hope to achieve a lot more in the future.

(Inja) For me, the most exciting part is the product and the product experience. We haven’t had many people taste our product until now, and one important milestone was our first food journalist tasting in the first half of the year. It was covered by a successful food journalist in the SF Chronicle, who loved the product.

But really, it’s anyone just eating our cheese, including our employees when they join. Just seeing the excitement and smile on their faces, saying it’s just cheese and tastes like cheese. That’s been the most rewarding.

And moving forward into 2023, what are the plans for New Culture? (Matt)

The plan is to get our cheese out into the market and start selling it. To us, 2023 is all about commercialization from a scale perspective, from a regulatory perspective, from a partnership perspective, like our first restaurant partners that we want to launch into.

There’ll be some exciting updates there, and stay tuned for a lot of juicy news. But 2023 is all about getting our cheese into people's mouths.

Is there anything else we should discuss about the future of food? (Matt)

I’m just really excited about the future. Having been in this space for four years, we've met some fantastic people. There are so many passionate, talented people here, and it just makes what we do rewarding and exciting, and much more enjoyable.

Overall excited, and anyone interested in being a part of this space, please don't hesitate to get in touch because we always love meeting new people. And this space needs a lot of scale - not just from a production point of view, but from a people point of view.

So, we always want talented people to come and join not just New Culture but everyone in the field. So get in touch.

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