An Edmonton startup working on ways to make lab-grown meat cheaper to produce recently received $2.2 million in seed funding from U.S venture capital firms and investors.
Future Fields, founded by Matt and Jalene Anderson-Baron and Lejjy Gafour, has developed a much cheaper form of growth factor — media needed for cells to grow and multiply — for producing cultured meat.
“You can think of that very much like the feed for the cells, just like animals need feed to grow, cells need to grow and multiply and ultimately become these meat products,” Matt Anderson-Baron told CBC’s Edmonton AM.
“So we make that ingredient, which is traditionally very, very expensive and not very scalable.”
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Cultured meat, or meat grown in a lab using in vitro cell cultures, was first produced in 2012 by Dutch scientist Mark Post. That first patty, made public in 2013, cost $300,000 to produce.
Although costs for the growth media have come down considerably, they still run at least $500 per litre. Using their method, Anderson-Baron hopes to reduce the price to less than $1 per litre at full scale.
Around the world, 60 companies are working on lab-grown meat, although only one company — in Singapore — is successfully selling products commercially on a very small scale.
According to a 2018 study in Science, meat, aquaculture, eggs and dairy account for more than half of food-related emissions, yet they provide only 37 per cent of the world’s protein. Still, meat consumption is on the rise with the global industry worth $1.3 trillion as of 2020.
Experts anticipate lab-grown meat markets will capture 10 per cent of the traditional meat market in the next decade.
Pivot to growth media
Anderson-Baron said the three co-founders met through the local Edmonton music scene. Although they come from different fields, they became interested in the lab-grown meat industry and decided to start their own company, which they officially incorporated in 2018.
The company originally worked on creating poultry products — like chicken nuggets — but found manufacturing costly. However, while at a startup accelerator program in Singapore in 2019, they decided to shift their focus on the growth media instead.
“When we came up with some technology around reducing the costs of key components of that growth, we then decided to just pivot the company and provide this for all the other companies in this industry because they’re all facing the same problem, too,” Anderson-Baron said.
They believe their method of producing the cheaper growth-media to be the first in Canada, which is why they filed a patent application.
With the new investment, Anderson-Baron said the company plans on putting roots down in Edmonton.
“A lot of what we’re spending in the next few months is securing a space that’s going to really be our home for the next few years,” he said.
“It’s going to accommodate the growth that we need to see to provide our products to all these companies.”