Are you ready for cell-based foods?

Updated: Jan 23

Cell-based foods are closer to our stores. More and more start ups are investing on this high-level technology and the product development continues to grow. The use of cell-based foods seems to be the ideal solution for depleted oceans and reducing greenhouse gases.



Probably now, names like Wild Type, Shiok Meats, Future Meat or Meatable (1) don't mean anything for you but soon, they will sound very familiar for all of us . All of them are spearheading a whole new type of products: cell-based foods. Following the trend initiated years ago by the vegetarian and vegan movement battling against the consumption of meat and its environmental implications, these startups are raising millions of dollars in Series A rounds and investing enormous resources to make profitable what a priori may seem a science fiction movie.

The rapid emergence of these companies reminds me the 70s when tech companies were created in garages during the first years of the Silicon Valley revolution with the difference that before they were crazy dreamers from Stanford and now they are high-level professionals with long professional careers specialised in bioprocess, biomedical or tissue engineering or related fields to scale-up a cell level production to industrial levels.


Wild Type raised $12.5M Series A to accelerate the production of its cultured salmon, this is fish cells cultivate in a lab. Their mission is to create the cleanest, most sustainable fish and meat on the planet (at least this is what they claim in their web).

Founded in 2016 by Justin Kolbeck and Aryé Elfenbein, it has 16 team members. Kolbeck's vision is to be able to supply a handful of restaurants on a regular basis driving down production costs but, currently, Kolbeck discloses that one of their salmon sushi rolls would cost $200. The challenge is to get it down to $5 to make it accessible to as many people as possible.


Future Meat is an Israeli start-up which recently raised $14M Series A to produce meat from GMO-free animal cells. This company makes a variety of meats, including beef and chicken, directly from animal cells. Future Meat makes cells grow in their patented bioreactors doubling in mass every 24 hours. The process lasts only two weeks allowing producers to rapidly change chicken, lamb and beef production within a few weeks’ notice. Its founder and CEO is Prof. Yaakov “Koby” Nahmias, a bioengineer Magna Cum Laude graduate of the Technion, Israel Institute of Technology.



Courtesy of Future Meats

The company will invest its new funding into R&D as well as the construction of a cultured meat pilot production facility. The startup is aiming to start selling a “hybrid product,” a combination of cell-based and traditional or plant-based meat, at a competitive cost level with traditional meat by 2021.


Cultured Chicken Breast Compared to Farmed Chicken. Cross section of grilled cultured chicken (bottom) compared to farmed chicken (top). Courtesy of Future Meat Technologies.

Shiok Meats is the first cell-based seafood company of its kind in South East Asia. Shiok Meats was founded by Dr Sandhya Sriram and Dr Ka Yi Ling in 2018 and develops seafood (crustaceans, actually) outside of the animal using a technology called cellular aquaculture ( a process where living cells are taken from fish and grown, using culture media, to create seafood). Its first product is cell-based shrimp with very positive reviews.


Meatable is another cell-based meat company. This start-up was founded in 2018 and it replicates the natural process of fat and muscle growth mixing the two elements together to produce meat finally. Instead of three years to develop enough meat to be slaughtered, Meatable can do the whole thing in three weeks.


According to Global Food Industries General Manager Jacek Plewa, the four major trends fueling this industry growth are taste, health concerns, sustainability/environment and animal welfare. Soon we will be able to see all of these foods in our stores.



References


(1) Catherine Lamb (2020). New Age Meats, the First Company to Debut Cell-based Pork Sausage, Raises $2.7M. The Spoon. Accessed 14 January 2020


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