Following all the developments in May and June, July marked a strong start to the third quarter for cellular agriculture. Cellular agriculture (cell ag) is the field of growing animal products, like meat or dairy products, from cell cultures instead of raising animals for the same products. Compared conventional livestock agriculture, cell ag provides a more sustainable and environmentally-friendly way to produce animal products to meet the growing global demand for animal products. From new (and ground-breaking) products to new deals, this article looks at what happened this July in cellular agriculture.
New Age Meats is a cellular agriculture startup looking to make cell-based meat by bringing the best practices in automation and data science to scale production. This month, investment group Agronomics announced that the firm invested $700,000 in New Age Meats. While New Age Meats has not yet announced the funding, the startup will use the funds to continue to develop their cell-based pork. Last September, New Age Meats showcased the first ever cell-based pork sausage. Just 2 months after starting at IndieBio.
New Age Meats' sausage taste test. Photo taken from Business Insider.
July marked New Harvest’s 2019 conference on cellular agriculture. New Harvest is a leading non-profit organization that funds primary research in cellular agriculture. The conference took place at the MIT Media Labs, and it was incredible! In the last year, the field has grown with new researchers, companies, and investors all interested in the future of food. As a media partner, it was great to meet all these fascinating people which I am going to be writing about soon. The presentations provided detailed insights on a range of topics from regulatory overviews to global cell ag insights. Looking forward to sharing my thoughts on the conference in the coming weeks.
The New Harvest team on stage at the start of the conference
One of the biggest announcements from the conference is that New Harvest is opening an office in Boston. As a leading biotech research hub, it’s not surprising that New Harvest is interested in opening an office in Boston. Many New Harvest research fellows are also based in Boston at the Kaplan Lab at Tufts University. New Harvest Research Director Kate Kreuger will move to Boston and run the new office.
This month, Perfect Day made history.
Perfect Day is a startup that uses cellular agriculture to produce animal-free dairy proteins. By designing flora to produce the same dairy proteins found in milk from a cow, Perfect Day can make the same milk. Without the cow.
And this month, Perfect Day showcased the first ever animal-free dairy ice cream. Without requiring animals.
And within hours, their limited release was sold out. With the release of their ice cream, Perfect Day became the first cell ag company to bring a food product to market. As one of the first companies in the field, it seems fitting that their product is one of the first to be sampled.
Wild Earth announced that they are launching a new product: an animal-free dog food! Based in Berkeley, California, Wild Earth is a pet food startup to use cellular agriculture to produce sustainable pet food. Instead of using meat in their dog food, Wild Earth’s pet food is made from koji. Koji is a type of fungi that is a distant relative of mushrooms, and Wild Earth plans to use it as the source of their clean protein. In a previous interview, Ryan Bethencourt, the co-founder and CEO of Wild Earth, once said that “one of the biggest challenges in pet food is actually the low-quality of the protein itself.” By using koji, Bethencourt aims to make Wild Earth a “clean protein company that makes clean protein for pets.”
Cell ag company Integriculture announced a joint research partnership with NH Foods, a major food and meat processing company in Japan. Based in Tokyo, Integriculture uses cell ag to make cell-based meat. According to Integriculture, the joint research project will focus on developing methods to scale production of cell-based meat. As a large meat player, NH Foods’ support is promising for the field, as it reflects that meat processors are interested in how cell ag can impact the future of food. Last year, Integriculture raised JPY 300 million ($2.7 million) to develop their pilot plant facility.
New York City announced plans to ban foie gras, a dish made by force-feeding duck and geese to enlarge their livers. The proposed law specifically bans any products made by “force feeding a bird with the intent to fatten or enlarge the bird’s liver.”
What would this law mean for cellular agriculture companies working to produce an animal-free foie gras? Without force feeding birds, would a cell-based version of foie gras be allowed in New York City? Companies Just and Integriculture have previously shown interest in developing a cell-based foie gras. In January, the US Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal to California’s 2004 law banning foie gras.
Sustainable sports clothing, anyone? Fashion designer Stella McCartney presented a prototype of a tennis dress for Adidas using Bolt Threads’ Microsilk. Unlike regular silk, Bolt Threads uses cell ag to grow their spider silk from cell cultures. Bolt Threads previously partnered with Stella McCartney to debut their Mylo product line. Unlike their other products, Mylo is not made from spider silk. It’s leather, made from mushrooms. In April 2018, Bolt Threads showcased their first Mylo leather bag for Stella McCartney at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
One of the major themes explored at New Harvest 2019 was how to scale the field next. Now that research and companies have shown that it is possible to make the future of food with cellular agriculture, how will we take it to the next level of production?
Companies like Perfect Day and Wild Earth bringing their products to market is a positive sign that the field is moving in the right direction and will eventually come to market, at an affordable price. While Perfect Day’s ice cream cost $60 for 3 pints, their recent partnership may help them scale production to make their innovative dairy products more affordable. In addition, research partnerships with industry players, like Integriculture’s partnership with NH Foods, will also help advance the field.