HonMun Yip, TurtleTree’s Executive Vice President, and a serial investor in the alternative protein space, shares his thoughts on the cellular agriculture industry’s prospects for 2022:
In 1931, Winston Churchill floated the idea of a future where we would grow only the required parts of an animal for meat. That meant doing away with the time and resources needed for growing extraneous parts not popularly consumed.
8 decades later, the world’s first cultivated beef patty was unveiled. It cooked and sizzled just like any regular beef patty, but its price tag—a whopping $280,000—was not at all ordinary.
In the mere 9 years that have followed since Post’s patty however, the price of cultivated meat has now dropped dramatically from $280,000 to $1.70 for a chicken breast. Predictions also point to price parity with conventional meats being reached by 2030 at $5.66/kg. Meanwhile, demand for cultivated meat has also been forecasted to outpace plant-based and conventional meats at a 41% CAGR, reaching $600 billion in market share by 2040.
What else could be on the horizon?
From Lab to Table
Hitting scalability milestones looks set to be the theme for cellular agriculture in 2022.
2021 saw numerous companies welcoming fresh rounds of investments, with funding priorities notably relegated to commercialization. For example, Perfect Day’s $350 million Series D funding will see the animal-free dairy company launching 20 more products this year, on top of their existing commercial line of ice creams and cream cheese. Aleph Farms’ $105 million Series B round meanwhile will propel the cultivated meat company towards its initial market launch this year.
Most recently, Upside Foods’ unicorn status will see the company aiming to rapidly begin commercialization. More of such commercial milestones being hit will likely create a cyclical effect of attracting yet more sizable investments.
2022 will also potentially see more Big Food companies joining the cellular agriculture race via acquisitions or partnerships. Nestlé, the biggest food company in the world, has already partnered with Future Meat Technologies to explore producing cultivated meat. JBS Foods, aka the world’s largest meat processor, has plans to bring cultivated meat to the market by 2024 through its acquisition of Spanish cell-based meat company BioTech Foods.
And on the regulatory front, Eat Just has received the go-ahead to sell new types of cultivated chicken products in Singapore. There are expectations that cultivated seafood products will soon be approved in the United States with Israel, the UAE, and Qatar following suit to meet food security targets.
As a whole, all developments point towards the industry’s sure-footed move towards scalability. It’s also encouraging to see companies like Mosa Meat taking the lead to make their technologies accessible for industry peers—the company recently detailed their animal-free cell culture media formulation, a groundbreaking advancement for an industry that still largely relies on the use of costly and controversial fetal bovine serum in media formulations.
Above all, we continue to see more and more researchers—the true experts in evaluating the plausibility of the field—casting their vote of confidence by joining the industry. Aryé Elfenbein, Mark Post, and Uma Valeti, the co-founders of companies like Wildtype, Mosa Meat, and Upside Foods respectively, were all former doctors who saw how the science behind stem cell research could be applied to creating future foods.
In being a fresh way of feeding the world, cellular agriculture displays great potential to solve current systemic issues of food production and distribution. It’s hence paramount that the industry is adequately supported to create a new world of food that does more.
As it stands, there are numerous avenues for investors to help cellular agriculture companies grow their production levels and business models. These include but are not limited to:
1. Funding open-source cell line technologies
The lack of open-access research is hindering the industry’s continuous scalability. For a new industry to develop robust and productive innovation ecosystems, tools and ideas need to be shared.
Cell lines, in particular, in being the basic building block of cultivated meat, are crucial for scientists to accelerate the development of cultivated products. Investors could look at making quality and affordable cell lines available to researchers by offering funding to institutes like GFI, which is working to build a repository of open-source validated cell lines.
2. Supporting computer modeling technologies
Carrying out actual laboratory prototyping of cultivated meat products costs substantial time and money. With computer modeling however, lab experiments can be conducted virtually, with results arrived at much more quickly and at a fraction of the cost. The Cultivated Meat Modeling Consortium is one such organization accelerating the cost-efficient design of high-quality cultivated meat.
3. Investing in sustainability
For cellular agriculture to truly revolutionize our food production methods, sustainability has to be baked into every aspect of its methods. One crucial aspect is ensuring that clean energy sources are being used to meet the energy-intensive nature of the industry.
Investors can look at supporting companies in building renewable energy infrastructures close to their production facilities. Investors are crucial in driving the low-carbon transition across the global economy, a move which besides creating positive societal change, can also help protect the value of their investments.
4. Supporting consumer education efforts
Mass adoption of cultivated products begins with everyday consumers being aware of and familiar with the novel concepts of cellular agriculture. The non-profit Cellular Agriculture Society, for example, has been working hard at creating educational content that spans immersive, visually compelling digital experiences, to working with universities like Stanford to introduce the world’s first curriculum about cellular agriculture. Quality educational platforms such as these will certainly help in accelerating consumer acceptance of cultivated foods.
A New Chapter
From scaling production to actual product launches, and seeing follow-on investments, 2022 looks to be a promising year for cellular agriculture. As we continue along this optimistic trajectory, it’s important to remember that we’ve been granted the rare opportunity to rewrite our futures simply through the way we produce food. How often do we get that? To create a better future with better food, we have to continue building on this momentum, and make each new chapter of this new agricultural revolution count.
Keep up with all of TurtleTree’s thoughts about the future of the cellular agriculture industry here.