October was a strong start to the fourth quarter for cellular agriculture. Cellular agriculture (‘cell ag’) is the field of growing animal products (like meat and leather) from cell cultures instead of animals, and it offers an alternative and sustainable way to produce animal products. Without requiring animals. From new investments to the first joint-regulatory meeting in the US, this article will take a look at some of the key events during the month of October.
This month, Geltor announced that they raised a massive $18.2 million to complete their Series A financing. The round of funding was led by Cultivan Sandbox Ventures and included investments from GELITA, ADM Ventures, and seed investors Fifty Years, Stray Dog Capital, SOSV, and New Crop Ventures.
Unlike traditional collagen that is sourced from the bones and skins of livestock animals or fish, Geltor uses cellular agriculture to grow animal-free collagen protein. Collagen has many functions and can be used to make many different products, like gelatin, leather, and cosmetic products. In May, Geltor won the CEW’s Award for Innovation for 2018 for their first product: N-Collage, a collagen product for skincare use. The CEW Awards is one of the beauty industry’s top awards, and it’s promising that Geltor’s innovative product earned them early recognition in the industry. Recently, Geltor was also named in CNBC’s list of 100 startups to watch.
Geltor plans to use their round of funding to get their animal-free collagen in food products by 2020. With that timeline, Geltor will be one of the first food cell ag products out!
Wild Earth revamped their website with a big announcement: you can now pre-order their new koji-based dog treats! Wild Earth is the first pet food startup to use cellular agriculture to produce sustainable pet food. According to Ryan Bethencourt, CEO and co-founder of Wild Earth, “one of the biggest challenges in pet food is actually the low-quality of the protein itself”. Wild Earth plans to fix that problem with koji. Koji is a breed of fungi that is a distant relative from mushrooms. Koji is already used in miso soup and soy sauce, and Wild Earth plans to use it as the source of their clean protein. Wild Earth originally began limited releases of their koji-based dog treats in July. They plan to release more pet foods in the coming year.
Beyond Meat hired investment banks for an initial public offering to become a public company. Beyond Meat is the company behind the increasingly popular Beyond Burger. The Beyond Burger is a plant-based meat burger that is meant to have the same taste and texture as meat. Beyond Meat will be the first public stock offering from the wave of companies making alternatives to conventional animal meat. It will be interesting to see the precedent that Beyond Meat sets for other companies looking for exits while changing the future of food.
Impossible Foods was named one of Time Magazine’s Top 50 Genius Companies. Alongside companies like 23andMe, Apple, and Amazon, this list recognizes the top companies that are inventing the future. Having tasted their Impossible Burger, it’s easy to see why their plant-based meat will be a part of the future of food.
Even though the Impossible and Beyond Burgers are plant-based meat alternatives, their successful rise is a positive sign. It shows that people are willing to embrace alternatives to conventional animal products that offer a more sustainable and environmentally friendly option.
Plant-based today. Cell-based meats tomorrow?
In Washington D.C., the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Food and Drug Association (FDA) held a joint public meeting over the regulation of cell-based meats. During the two-day event, the two agencies stated that they intend to jointly regulate these products. This will be the first instance where both agencies are in charge of regulating a field of products. It will be interesting to see what pathway moving forward the two agencies develop.
Regulation is one of the main obstacles ahead for cellular agriculture, and this story is continuously unfolding. There are still many questions that were brought up over what cell-cultured products would look like at scale. Will antibiotics be required to keep the cell culture serum sterile? How will the products be labelled? And, most of all, what will the product even be called?
In January, Geltor surprised many to make the first cell ag leather using jellyfish collagen to bound a copy of Paul Shapiro’s book Clean Meat. Coupled with their latest round of funding, October continues the great year for Geltor. And for cellular agriculture.
It is promising to see that the USDA and FDA seem to have agreed upon a joint regulatory pathway forward. While there are still questions about how that will look, it is now important that regulators communicate with the respective companies and industries to help grow and support the future of food.
The start of November marks the inaugural Cultured Meat Symposium in San Francisco, California. As the community media partner, looking forward to sharing my thoughts from the event. Along with CMS18, Cultivate18 will be held on November 15th in London, UK. Cultivate is a free discussion forum about cellular agriculture, and their third annual event brings together the British cell ag community.