Cellular Agriculture: The Products Leading a Revolution

This article was originally published in February 2018. Last updated in March 2020.

From the first cultured hamburger in 2013, cellular agriculture (‘cell ag’) will soon be available at a store near you! Cell ag refers to the field of growing animal products from cells instead of raising animals for them, and quite a few cellular agriculture companies are working to get their first products to market. While some actors and companies, like Dr. Mark Post of Mosa Meat, believe that cultured meat will be on the market at the earliest by 2021, others are working to get to market faster. This article will highlight some of the upcoming products in each sector and when to expect them!

Bolt Threads' Silk Ties, Toques, and Leather Bags

Bolt Threads is a clothing startup that uses animal-free spider silk to make clothes. By using yeast to produce spider silk. Bolt Threads has already released a few products in limited amounts. In early 2017, Bolt Threads made the first spider silk necktie and sold 50 of them for $314 each. In December 2017, Bolt Threads partnered with the Best Made Company to make toques and released a limited amount of Bolt Threads x Best Made Caps of Courage.

In 2018, Bolt Threads announced its latest product line: Mylo. Unlike their other products, Mylo is not made from spider silk. It’s leather, made from mushrooms. Licensing the technology from Ecovative Design, Mylo is a leather material produced from mycelium, the root structure of mushrooms. In September 2018 , Bolt Threads announced the first commercial product from the Mylo line: The Driver Bag. Each bag is cut and sewn by hand in partnership with Chester Wallace, a bag company in Portland, Oregon.

In March 2019 , Bolt Threads announced that they are entering the cosmetic space with the launch of its spinoff company, Eighteen B, to produce skincare products with silk. Eighteen B launched with two products with its trademarked ‘b-silk’: a silk protein moisturizer and cream. When added to cosmetics, silk proteins can help create a protective barrier around the skin. Making it a useful ingredient in skincare products.

Would you wear a tie made from Bolt Threads’ spider silk?

Geltor's Collagen

Geltor is a startup that uses cell ag to create animal-free gelatin by using yeast to produce the protein collagen. Collagen is the main component of gelatin and is used in a range of other products, such as cosmetics. In May 2018, Geltor won the CEW’s Award for Innovation for 2018 for their first cosmetic product: N-Collage, a collagen skincare product. It’s great to see that Geltor’s innovative work for a sustainable source of collagen has earned them recognition in the cosmetic world.

More recently, in October 2019, Geltor announced a partnership with leading global collagen company GELITA to produce the first ingestible animal-free collagen proteins. Specifically, the two companies plan to develop collagen dietary supplements . They aim to launch in late 2020.

Wild Earth's Dog Treats

Wild Earth is the first pet food startup to use cellular agriculture to produce sustainable pet food. Wild Earth launched its first product on their website in October 2018: koji-based dog treats! Koji is a type of fungi that is found in miso soup and soy sauce, and Wild Earth plans to use it as the source of their clean protein. By using koji, Wild Earth addresses the problem of “low-quality of protein” found in pet foods. In July 2019, Wild Earth announced the release of their first koji-based dog food.

Perfect Day's Animal-Free Dairy

Perfect Day uses acellular agriculture to make animal-free dairy proteins. In July 2019, Perfect Day made history launching the first ever animal-free dairy ice cream. With the limited release of their ice cream, Perfect Day became the first company to release a food product to market.

Instead of rushing into the dairy aisle, Perfect Day plans to become an ingredients supplier to companies in the food and beverage industry to bring their flora-based dairy products to market. To support that goal, Perfect Day shared they will announce new partnerships in 2020. Perfect Day recently released several images showing that their flora-based dairy proteins can be used to create a range of products .

Just Meat

Not everyone is waiting until 2021 to release cell-cultured meat. Just ambitiously wants to be the first company to have their product on the market. In 2017, Josh Tetrick of Just (formerly Hampton Creek) announced that Just will release their first cell-based meat product by the end of 2018.

Spoiler: they didn't. They didn't release a cell-based meat product in 2019 either. To date, no cell-based meat company has released any product to market. Let’s see what they can deliver this year.

Bioleather

Modern Meadow is a company that uses cellular agriculture to grow animal-free leather to make clothes and other leather goods. Unlike conventional leather, Modern Meadow’s ‘bioleather’ is in liquid form (essentially, a liquid leather) that can be molded into different shapes and sizes. Modern Meadow created a prototype t-shirt for its brand Zoa and displayed it at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City and hope to have their first finished products released by 2019. It’s expected that high-end brands will be the first designers to incorporate their sustainable leather into production.

Cell-Based Seafood is Coming

The year 2019 was a big milestone for cell-based seafood. For the first time, many cell-based seafood companies showcased prototypes of what their products could be one day. Following Shiok Meats’ showcase of the first cell-based shrimp dumpling in Singapore in March, San Francisco-based Wild Type presented the first cell-based salmon dinner in Portland, Oregon in June. In October, Hong Kong-based Avant Meats showed how cellular agriculture could be used to develop a diverse range of products by producing the first cell-based fish maw product, a popular dish in China and South Asian cuisine. To end the year, BlueNalu presented the first cell-based yellowtail amberjack in San Diego, California.

The diverse range of products highlight how cell-based seafood can be as versatile as conventional seafood. BlueNalu plans to have a limited release of their cell-based seafood in select restaurants in mid- to late-2021.


(Left to Right): A selection of cell-based seafood prototypes. Shiok Meats' shrimp dumpling; Wild Type's salmon; Avant Meats' fish maw; BlueNalu's yellow amberjack

Chicken-Free Egg White

Similar to Perfect Day, Clara Foods uses acellular agriculture to produce chicken-free egg white proteins. In April 2019, Clara Foods announced a partnership with global ingredients distributor Ingredion to globally distribute their product as an ingredient for other products. While there is no set date, Clara Foods aims to have their product to market as early as this year. With large corporations like McDonalds, Nestle, and Walmart committing to ‘cage-free eggs’ in the next 5 to 10 years, it is possible that scaled production of cell ag egg whites could provide a way of doing that.

Looking to the Future

Beyond these companies and products, there are other companies that plan to have their own cell ag products released later on. Beyond any regulatory issues and other obstacles, one of the main hurdles ahead for cellular agriculture is scaling production to be commercially viable. Once that is developed, we are likely to see more cell ag products in the near future!

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