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February 2021: The Month in Review

After a great start to the year in January, this February continued the cellular agriculture field’s momentum into 2021. Cellular agriculture is the field of producing animal products, like meat, dairy, and collagen, directly from cell cultures instead of raising animals. Compared to conventional livestock agriculture, cellular agriculture offers a more sustainable way to produce animal products to meet the growing global demand without requiring

From 7 new investment rounds to a new product showcase and new product launch, we highlight what happened this February in the cellular agriculture field.

Investments

Future Meat Technologies

Future Meat Technologies announced the company raised $26.75 million in funding. Based in Israel, Future Meat Technologies uses its proprietary technology platform to produce cell-based meat.

The largest funding round announced for a cellular agriculture company in Asia, Future Meat Technologies’ funding round consisted of both corporate investors as well as venture firms. According to the press release, Future Meat’s corporate backers include Tyson Foods, Archer Daniel Midland, Muller Group, and Rich’s Products Corporation. 

The funding round brings Future Meat’s total funding to just under $43 million, In October 2019, Future Meat Technologies raised $14 million in its Series A funding round.

In addition to the large funding round, Future Meat also shared a big technological breakthrough: the company reduced the cost of a cultured chicken breast to $7.50. With a single-digit product cost per quarter pound serving of its cultured chicken, this is a big cost reduction breakthrough that reflects Future Meat’s progress in scaling its proprietary cell-culturing technology platform.

According to Future Meat Technologies, the cultured chicken breast has the same texture and aroma of conventional chicken through a blend of its cultured fat and plant proteins.

Moving forward, Future Meat aims to have its pilot plant set up in the first half of 2021 and is seeking regulatory approval in several territories. In addition to cultured chicken breast, Future Meat Technologies is also working on cultured lamb kebabs and beef burgers.

 

Mosa Meat

Mosa Meat announced the third close of its Series B round by raising an additional $10 million to bring its total Series B funding to $85 million. This is the largest funding round to date for a European cellular agriculture company, and the funding round more than doubles all disclosed investments into European cellular agriculture companies.

Based in Maastricht, Netherlands, Mosa Meat uses cellular agriculture to produce cell-based meat, specifically beef. Mosa Meat’s third close of its Series B round featured investments from existing and new investors, including Dutch animal nutrition and fish feed company Nutreco and Jitse Groen, the CEO of Just Eat Takeaway.com (not to be confused with Eat Just, the company that brought the first cell-based meat to market in Singapore).

It is promising to see Nutreco to further invest in and work with Mosa Meat. In January 2020, Mosa Meat shared the company received an undisclosed investment from Nutreco. At the same time, Nutreco signed partnerships with both Mosa Meat and cell-based seafood company BlueNalu to supply ingredients to make the cell culture media for cell-based meat production.

Mosa Meat plans to use the new funding to expand its team, extend its pilot plant facility, and develop an industrial-sized production line. Before introducing its cell-based beef to customers, Mosa Meat also aims to work with European regulators to demonstrate the safety of its cell-based meat in order to receive regulatory approval for its novel product.

 

CellMeat

What will the future of food look like in South Korea? New startup CellMeat announced the company raised approximately $4.5 million in pre-Series A funding to use cellular agriculture to produce cell-based meat. The funding round was led by private equity and venture firm NAU IB Capital and featured both domestic and international investors.

CellMeat currently aims to use the funding round to accelerate its research and development, including reducing its production costs and scaling up production. Ultimately, CellMeat aims to lower its production costs to compete with conventional meat and also match its taste and texture. The startup’s research and development teams are currently based in Chonnam National University in Gwangju andin Ewha Womans University’s Mokdong Hospital in Seoul.

Hoxton Farms

New cellular agriculture startup Hoxton Farms raised £2.7 million in seed funding to develop cell-cultured fat, a key component of meat. Founded by Max Jamily and Ed Steele, Hoxton Farms aims to use computer modelling to customize cell-cultured fats and and reduce the cost of producing them for both plant-based and cell-based meat companies. The funding round was led by Founders Fund and featured investments from Backed VC, Presight Capital, CPT Capital, and Sustainable Food Ventures.

Hoxton Farms plans to use the funding round to develop its production platform for cell-cultured fats and to expand its research and development team in London, United Kingdom.

 

Future Fields

Canadian startup Future Fields announced the company raised $2.2 million in seed round funding. Based in Edmonton, Alberta, Future Fields is one of several startups working on producing an inexpensive cell culture media formulation for the cell-based meat industry, a major scaling hurdle for the industry. In August 2020, Future Fields shared it was the first Canadian cellular agriculture startup to go through the Y Combinator accelerator program. Future Field’s funding round was led by Bee Partners, who have previously invested in cell ag dairy company New Culture.

 

New Age Meats

New Age Meats announced the company raised $2 million in a seed extension round. Based in San Francisco, New Age Meats looks to bring the best practices in automation and data science into cellular agriculture to help scale production. In July 2020, New Age Meats previously raised $2 million in a seed round expansion. New Age Meats aims to focus on producing hybrid cell-based meat and plant-based pork products. In September 2018, New Age Meats showcased the first cell-based pork sausage.

 

CellulaREvolution

CellulaREvolution raised £1 million to further advance how cell-based meat can grow at scale in bioreactors. CellulaREvolution aims to make culturing cells more efficient and affordable at scale through their bioreactor technology. Currently, no large-scale bioreactors exist that would support scaling production of cell-based meats to get the field from lab to market. CellulaREvolution’s technology may allow other companies in the field to help scale production of cell-based meats.

 

Avant Meats Launches Zellulin Cosmetic Product

Avant Meats announced the launch of its new product line Zellulin to produce cell-based protein ingredients for the cosmetic industry. Based in Hong Kong, Avant Meats is a cell-based meat company that uses cellular agriculture to produce a range of seafood products.

The first commercial product from Avant Meats, the company states that Zellulin is the first cell-based functional protein that consists of multi-functional marine peptides for the functional ingredient cosmetic market. According to the press release, Avant Meats claims that Zellulin promotes anti-oxidation, regeneration, and repairing of skin more effectively than collagen alone based on in-house laboratory tests.

With the aim to launch in early 2022,  the announcement continues Avant Meats’ great start to the year after a strong end to 2020. In January, Avant Meats formed a strategic partnership with Vietnamese seafood giant Vinh Hoan Corporation (VHC) to leverage its global sales network and manufacturing capabilities to accelerate its cell-based seafood seafood. Prior to that, in December, Avant Meats announced the company raised $3.1 million in seed funding to further advance its work.

It’s great to see Avant Meats apply its cell culture technology platform beyond cell-based meat and explore novel applications into fields like cosmetics. Previously, cellular agriculture company Geltor previously launched several products in the cosmetic and beauty industry using its animal-free collagen and elastapure proteins. Similarly, in November, new startup Jellatech launched as the first cell-based collagen and gelatin company with a cell-based marine collagen prototype.

 

Geltor Plans to Launch Animal-Free Collagen for Food in Mid-2021

Animal-free collagen company Geltor announced the company will launch its first animal-free collagen for the food and nutrition market this summer. After producing a range of collagen products for the cosmetic industry, Geltor first signalled its interest in developing animal-free collagen for the food sector by signing a partnership with GELITA to do so in October 2019. In July 2020, Geltor raised $91.3 million in Series B funding, becoming the fourth cellular agriculture company to raise over $100 million.

At the same time, Geltor also announced three new hires in its leadership team. From business development and operations to commercial development, the recent additions to Geltor’s executive team highlights the company’s focus on scaling production and position itself as the strategic partner for a range of protein applications. 

 

Aleph Farms Showcases Rib Eye Steak

Aleph Farms showcased the prototype of its latest product: the world’s first cell-based ribeye steak. Based in Israel, Aleph Farms is a startup that uses cellular agriculture to grow cell-based meat, specifically steak. Using their proprietary technology platform and 3D bioprinting, Aleph Farms became the first company to produce a cell-cultured ribeye steak. 

Compared to Aleph Farm’s first steak prototype in December 2018, Aleph Farm’s ribeye steak is a thicker cut of meat that incorporates both muscle and fat tissue. By using its 3D bioprinting technology, Aleph Farms believes the company can produce any type of steak and plans to expand its portfolio of meat products.

According to its press release, the company claims its cell-based ribeye steak has the same taste and texture of a “juicy ribeye steak you’d buy from the butcher”. In November 2020, Aleph Farms showcased the prototype of its first commercial cell-based meat product and shared the company was preparing for the launch of its first pilot plant, dubbed the BioFarm. 

Aleph Farms aims to launch commercial production from BioFarm by the end of 2022.

Along with announcing its latest ribeye steak prototype, Aleph Farms shared that the company is targeting Japan and Singapore for the pilot launch of its cell-based meat. In December 2020, Singapore became the first country to give regulatory approval for the sale of cell-based meat. While there is no regulatory framework established yet in Japan, Aleph Farms signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Mitsubishi to bring cell-based meat to Japan through its proprietary BioFarms. 

 

New Harvest Announces Cultured Meat Safety Initiative

As more cellular agriculture companies come to market, especially cell-based meat companies, it will be important for both regulators and the industry to highlight the key areas that need to be addressed for the safety of the food products. Over the past year, cellular agriculture nonprofit New Harvest and Vireo Advisors have worked together to establish the cultured meat safety initiative: a collaboration of cell-based meat companies and safety experts to generate independent, credible data about the safety of cultured meat production. 

According to Vireo Advisors, the initiative brought together cellular agriculture companies from around the world to discuss the important pre-commercial topic and to advance the safety conversation in cellular agriculture. The project led to the first manuscript about cultured meat safety with input from global cell-based meat players. In December 2020, New Harvest received a charitable donation from Robert Downey Jr’s FootPrint Coalition to support the cultured meat safety initiative.

 

TurtleTree Partners with Dyadic for Growth Factors

Soon after its launch, TurtleTree Scientific, the B2B arm of Singapore-based TurtleTree Labs, announced a partnership with Dyadic to use its platform to scale production of growth factors for cell culture media. The cell culture media is the nutrient formulation in which cells grow in, and producing affordable growth factors are a major cost pain point for the field as it looks to scale. By partnering with Dyadic, TurtleTree hopes to leverage their gene expression platform to lower production costs and accelerate production timeframes. In January, TurtleTree Labs announced the launch of its spinoff TurtleTree Scientific to produce growth factors for cellular agriculture companies.

 

CellAgri Launches Contributor Section

CellAgri is excited to announce the launch of our Contributor section on our website!  There are so many incredible people working in the cellular agriculture field, and this is a way to share their work about the future of food with cellular agriculture.

To start, we have two fascinating pieces by an author in the field and a leading alt protein accelerator VC.

Brett Cotten is the author of Gene-trepreneur. One year after publishing it, Brett highlights the progress being made by the companies and founders he covered in his book including Wild Earth, New Age Meats, and Finless Foods. Click here to check out his article

In addition, the team at Big Idea Ventures put together a very insightful article about the cell ag ecosystem in Singapore. After becoming the first country to give regulatory approval for cell-based meat, it’s fascinating to hear about all the different ways Singapore is supporting the field.  Click here to check out their article

Thank you again to Brett Cotten and Big Idea Ventures for writing great articles to launch the Contributor Section!

 

Brave Robot Hits 5,000 Stores in the US

Animal-free ice cream, anyone? Brave Robot is the Urgent Company’s first ice cream product that uses Perfect Day’s flora-based dairy proteins, and, by Earth Day 2021 (April 22), the brand will be in 5,000 stores in the US. With shelf space in a range of grocery stores, it is promising to see the one of the first cellular agriculture food products expand across the US. Perfect Day has also announced partnerships with other ice cream productions, including Smitten Ice Cream, Graeter’s, Nick’s, and Igloo Dessert Bar in Hong Kong. The Urgent Company launched Brave Robot in July 2020 soon after Perfect Day announced its massive funding round

 

Clara Foods Receives Self-GRAS Assessment

Based in San Francisco, Clara Foods is an acellular agriculture company working to produce animal-free egg white proteins directly from cell cultures, As the company looks to bring its first products to market, Clara Foods completed its self-GRAS assessment and filed its GRAS application with the FDA for its animal-free egg proteins. With an initiative focus to launch in North America, Clara Foods shared the company will look to Europe soon after launching in North America. In July 2019, Perfect Day launched a limited release of the first cellular agriculture food product after securing self-determined GRAS status and received a letter of no objections of questions from the FDA in April 2020.

 

In the World of Plant-Based

Beyond Meat

At the end of February, the plant-based meat company made history through signing strategic partnership deals with both McDonald’s and the Yum! Brands. According to the partnerships, Beyond Meat will become McDonald’s preferred supplier of its new McPlant plant-based burger line. Beyond Meat previously shared that the company co-developed the plant-based burger for the McPlant line. In addition, in the partnership with Yum! Brands, which include KFC, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell, Beyond Meat will co-develop a range of exclusive plant-based menu items. 

While showing the popularity of its products, the new partnerships from Beyond Meat signify that the company has reached a scale and can supply a wide range of restaurants and fast food chains. In January 2021, Beyond Meat signed a 12-year lease valued at more than $178 million for its new headquarters in El Segundo, California, making it one of the largest and most technologically advanced plant-based research centers.

Impossible Foods

As the company continues to increase the scale of its production, plant-based Impossible Foods has reduced the cost of its product for the third in time in the last 12 months. This time, Impossible Foods cut suggested retail prices by 20% for grocery stores throughout the United States. Considering how plant-based products cost a premium compared to conventional meat, Impossible’s third cost reduction in the last year is a big step in reaching price parity. Eventually, as cell-based meat companies come to market and scale production, both plant-based and cell-based companies will be able to slash their costs. Plant-based today, cell-based tomorrow?

Oatly

After raising a massive funding round in July 2020, oat milk company Oatly is now preparing to go public. While previously reported that Oatly is looking to go public with a valuation of $5 billion, the company is considering seeking a valuation of $10 billion. Considering that plant-based milks represent 14% of the US milk retail market, the growth of oat milk’s popularity highlights consumer interest in a great tasting and more sustainable alternative to conventional animal milk. Considering the large funding rounds for dairy cellular agriculture companies, like Perfect Day’s expanded Series C round in July 2020, it’s clear there is a growing interest for alternatives to conventional dairy milk among investors.

 

Conclusion

With seven funding rounds in February alone, investments are flowing into the cellular agriculture field as the new year continues. Along with new product showcases and partnerships, the new startups and investments highlight how the field is advancing and moving forward to be part of a sustainable future of food. Interestingly, unlike previous years where investments in acellular agriculture startups outperformed cell-based meat startups, all the investments disclosed this month focused on developing cell-based meat or developing the cell-based meat supply chain.

TurtleTree Scientific’s partnership with Dyson highlights how partnerships will continue to be the way moving forward for cellular agriculture companies as they aim to accelerate their research and development process. In addition, New Harvest’s cultured meat safety initiative highlights the field coming together to establish vital safety considerations for producing cell-based meat at scale. Not only is it important for consumer trust and perception of the field, the initiative will also help companies understand what they all need to address as well as outline opportunities for future companies to enter the emerging field.

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