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November 2019: The Month in Review

Following an incredible October, November continued a strong end to 2019 for cellular agriculture. Cellular agriculture (cell ag) is the field of producing animal products, like meat or dairy, directly from cell cultures instead of raising animals for the same products. Compared to conventional livestock agriculture, cell ag provides a more sustainable and environmentally-friendly way to produce animal products to meet the growing demand for animal products.

From new rounds of funding to new product announcements, this article takes a look at what happened this November in cellular agriculture.

Investments

CellulaREvolution recently announced that they raised £380,000 (approx. $490,000) to change how cells are grown with their bioreactor system. Founded by Leo Groenewegen, Martina Miotto, and Che Connon, CellulaREvolution aims to make culturing cells more efficient and affordable at scale through their bioreactor technology.

Beyond medical and pharmaceutical application of their technology, another clear opportunity for the new company is in cellular agriculture. Specifically, developing bioreactors for cell-based meats.

Currently, no large-scale bioreactors exist that would support scaling production of cell-based meats to get the field from lab to market. To get to commercial levels, developing efficient and affordable bioreactors will be paramount. While CellulaREvolution does not focus on making a product, their bioreactor technology may allow other companies in the field to help scale production of cell-based meats.

The Perfect Animal-free Milk Fats

Perfect Day announced that the startup plans to start developing animal fats, specifically milk fats. Based in Berkeley, California, Perfect Day is a startup that uses cell ag to produce animal-free dairy proteins. And in a recent blog post, Perfect Day co-founders Ryan Pandya and Perumal Gandhi shared that they are building a team to expand into animal-free, flora-based fats. Starting with milk fats.

Milk fats can be used to make a range of products, such as butter, cream, and milk chocolate. Perfect Day initially began to explore animal-free milk fats in 2014 before deciding to concentrate on developing dairy proteins.

While many dairy alternatives use plant-based fats (like coconut or palm oil) to mimic the flavors of dairy fats, they don’t have the same functionality of animal-derived fats. It’s therefore important for Perfect Day to develop their own animal-free milk fats to make sure their dairy products have the same taste and texture profile as conventional dairy.

While announcing the milk fats plan, Perfect Day shared they will continue to focus on developing their dairy proteins. Perfect Day aims to commercialize their dairy proteins in 2020.

BlueNalu Launches EatBlue

Cell-based seafood startup BlueNalu launched their new platform, Eat Blue, this month. 

Eat Blue is an educational platform promoting sustainability content and encouraging sustainably-sourced seafood consumption. With the launch of the Eat Blue website, the platform plans to publish content relating to ocean health, human health, animal welfare, and the economic impact of sustainable seafood.

Eat Blue aims to be similar to the “go green” initiative, striving to inspire a generation of informed consumers to enjoy their seafood without compromising their commitment to sustainability. Eat Blue plan to announce new partnerships with leading organizations and expanded network of global ambassadors to help shape the future of sustainable seafood.

In the future, similar to how schools taught the importance of ‘going green’, will schools teach students the importance of ‘eating blue' to preserve our oceans?

Geltor Partners to Bring Animal-Free Collagen to Asia

Cellular agriculture company Geltor announced a partnership with Connell, a Wilbur-Ellis company, to bring their animal-free collagen to the personal care markets in the Asia Pacific region. Connell is a leading marketer and distributor of specialty chemicals in Asia-Pacific, and the company recently announced that it is the exclusive distributor for Geltor in the region.

Last month, Geltor also announced a partnership with leading global collagen company GELITA. According to the agreement, Geltor will design and produce premium biodesigned collagen and GELITA will conduct clinical research and commercialize the product as one of its portfolio products. Specifically, the two companies plan to develop dietary supplements using animal-free collage. They aim to launch in late 2020.

Both GELITA and Wilbur-Ellis (via Cavallo Ventures) previously invested in Geltor’s $18.2 million Series A round of funding in October 2018.

Growth Medium without Fetal Bovine Serum (FBS)

Dutch cell-based meat company Mosa Meat recently featured in Vox’s show Explained on Netflix in their Future of Meat episode (highly recommend!). Following the episode’s release, Mosa Meat announced that they developed a cell culture media that does not require fetal bovine serum (FBS).

Even though many scientific labs use FBS as a cell culture serum, there are two main obstacles in scaling using it as the cell culture serum for cell-based meats: its sourcing and price. Not only would this still involve animal sourcing in the production process, FBS is very costly. As a result, cell-based meat companies are working on developing an inexpensive, animal-free cell culture serum.

Willow’s (Spider) Web

Fashion designer Lisa Morgan of Strumpet & Pink displayed a piece of lingerie called Willow’s Web using Bolt Threads’ Microsilk. The piece was hand-crocheted Microsilk and embellished with seed pearls.

Unlike regular silk, Bolt Threads uses cellular agricultuer to grow their spider silk from cell cultures. In July, Bolt Threads partnered with fashion designer Stella McCartney to present a prototype of a tennis dress for Adidas using their Microsilk. Bolt Threads previously partnered with Stella McCartney to debut their Mylo product line. In April 2018, Bolt Threads showcased their first Mylo leather bag for Stella McCartney at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

Deans Foods Files for Bankruptcy

Dean Foods, America’s largest milk producer, filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy this month. While customers are expected to receive their dairy products without any disruptions during the sale of the company, Dean Foods’ bankruptcy highlights how dairy milk consumption is continuing to decline in the US. In the last two decades, American’s per capita consumption of fluid milk fell 26%.

As dairy milk consumption continues to decline, how will companies adjust to shifting consumer trends?

Impossible Foods Aims to Launch Pork in China

Plant-based food company Impossible Foods announced their plans to enter the Chinese market with a plant-based pork product. Considering that pork is the most consumed meat in China, it’s not surprising that Impossible Foods plans to launch a pork alternative instead of launching with their signature Impossible Burger.

In September, Impossible Foods launched the plant-based Impossible Burger in grocery stores in California and across the United States. Impossible Foods aims to be in grocery stores across every region in the US by mid-2020.

Conclusion

As the year comes to an end, the field continues to push ahead to try to make the future of food more sustainable. With new investments, product announcements, and partnerships, November was another busy month for the field. In addition, both Future Meat Technologies and JUST recently shared photos of their cell-based meat products on Twitter.

Cultured meat kebab by Future Meat Technologies

It’s interesting to note how many highlights from this month showed the field’s progress in coming to market. By announcing a new product line and partnership, both Perfect Day and Geltor aim to broaden their portfolios and distribution as they plan to launch more products in the new year.

In addition, the launch of Eat Blue highlights the importance of spreading the word about cellular agriculture and why it is needed. Instead of publishing content simply about how to make cell-grown animal products, Eat Blue could provide cell-based seafood companies a platform to share stories about why their products matter in making our food system more sustainable.

Communications is an important area in any field, and it is especially important when it comes to new food technologies. The story and the why matter just as much as the how.

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