Less than a decade ago the world’s first cellular agriculture product was consumed at a news conference in London. The burger came with a staggering $330,000 research and development costs, though it impressed food experts with its flavor and mouthfeel. Since this initial proof of concept, the industry has developed in leaps and bounds.
In 2022, there are over 80 companies working to develop a variety of cellular agriculture products, from whole muscle cuts of beef and chicken, to a range of seafood options. Millions of dollars worth of venture money and government grants have been invested into the space, and experts from around the world are actively collaborating to further this technology..
Some of the challenges faced in this category include regulatory approval and costs of production at scale.
Startups are working with regulatory bodies to seek commercial approval and indicators suggest that this will be achieved by 2024. Further, in seeking a cleaner, safer food system, many companies in this space are voluntarily committing to adhere to a higher standard of food safety. BlueNalu, a leading startup in the space producing cellular agriculture seafood products, and a Stray Dog Capital portfolio company, has announced and published its commitment to pursue third-party recognition by the Global Food Safety Initiative.
Costs of production are also being addressed and a new open-source framework has been spearheaded by food innovators at SuperMeat (an SDC portfolio company.) This Israeli based cellular agriculture company focuses on the production of whole-muscle chicken products and has been producing these for select customers in Tel Aviv since 2020.
The new partnership announced between SuperMeat and global life sciences company Thermo Fisher is intended to develop a system that can screen hundreds of thousands of potential inputs for growth media, cell supplements and scaffolds. The end goal is to identify what works best and costs the least. This announcement follows the news in March 2022 that SuperMeat is working with global ingredients giant Ajinomoto to create and refine cell growth media for its products.
Both of these partnerships are open-source arrangements meaning data will be available to all players in the industry in order to find the best components that work for them and at the lowest cost. This enables economies of scale to be created, wherein supply chains and distribution networks are established for a variety of products and not for one company only. Through this process and many other partnership and research projects the goal of cellular agriculture products reaching price parity with animal-based items is closer than ever.