Cellular meat has been on the ag industry’s radar for several years now as the burgeoning technology makes steady advances. Those achievements can sometimes be a little exaggerated by the media, which seems to adore the story of cellular agriculture. The headlines always make it sound like lab-grown steak is en route to your local grocery store, only to find out at the end of the article that it will take 5 to 10 years to get there. It could be time to brush aside the skepticism, though, with some big developments over at cellular ag startup “Future Fields,” which has developed a novel cellular growth medium that they say could cut an instrumental part of production costs by up to 1,000 times.
Future Fields gained another injection of funding through a seed round, which it will use to scale both the company and production. What’s more, the company has shipped its first growth factor product to cellular meat producers and allegedly has some paid contracts in place already. On the company’s website, Future Fields asks potential customers to add their names to a waitlist to claim a spot for its next shipment, saying, “Due to demand, we are currently shipping out orders on a first-come, first-serve basis.”
Understand, Future Fields is not making cellular meat, they are making the stuff that grows into cellular meat. More specifically, growth medium supplies all the necessary components – carbohydrates, fats, proteins, salts, etc. – needed for a small amount of cultured cells to grow into a steak. In nature, this magical formula is supplied by an animal’s own blood, so it’s a lot more complicated than just finding the right mix of vitamins. But it’s also easy to understand how this is an essential component of the process.
Lejjy Gafour, CEO of Future Fields, actually started the company with husband and wife team Matt and Jalene Anderson-Baron with the goal of creating their own cultured meat brand. However, the Canada-based startup hit a wall with a $3,000 per pound chicken nugget that was impossible to scale. Around the beginning of 2020, the company decided to focus on just the growth medium, a product that they are now offering to other companies.
On the path to cellular meat becoming a viable industry, Gafour says that the growth media and growth factors are the last remaining hurdles. Traditional methods of creating growth factors are expensive and difficult to scale, and currently accounts for a massive portion of production expenses for cultured meat companies, most of which are developing in-house formulas. Each pound of cellular meat requires around 200 liters (58 gallons) of growth media.
Future Fields hasn’t provided much detail about their technology, but claims its novel FGF2 platform produces the essential bioactive growth factors at a large scale and low cost. As Matt Anderson-Brown explains, companies have managed to bring costs down to as much as 100 times cheaper. “But our superpower is producing the growth medium at scale and doing it 1,000 times cheaper,” he said. “We’re talking about $2 to $3 per liter at scale.”
The media could potentially work with all animal protein types, too. In the future, Future Foods says that it will develop more growth factors tailored and customized to specific cell types for different customers and clients’ needs. Learn more at the Future Fields website HERE. https://www.futurefields.io/
So far, the only firm in the world that has gained regulatory approval for commercial sale of cultured meat is Eat Just, whose cultured chicken bites are available in Singapore. There are a lot of companies crowding into the space, though, all with the aim of lowering manufacturing costs. There are also a ton of companies hoping to launch cultured meat products, with even traditional meat giants like Tyson investing in the technology. The industry still has a way to go but there is a lot of money working very hard to get it over the finish line. (Sources: TechCrunch, Crunchbase, Green Queen)