Agriculture & foodtech

Future Fields Lands $2.2M Seed, Ships First Cellular Meat Growth Media

Future Fields is developing a first-of-its-kind cellular growth medium — the most important component of cellular agriculture — that enables customers to create lab-grown meat at a lower cost.

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The growing global population is expected to increase the need for food by 70 percent to 100 percent by 2050, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Cellular agriculture, or the production of agricultural products using cells or microorganisms without the use of animals, livestock or farmland, is one of several new approaches to meeting this demand and creating high-quality protein with less impact on land, water and other environmental resources.

Lejjy Gafour, CEO of Future Fields, founded the company in 2018 with COO Jalene Anderson-Baron and Chief Scientific Officer Matt Anderson-Baron. Its novel platform produces bioactive growth factors, the component that signals cells when and how to grow, at a large scale and low cost to make cellular meat a competitive mass-market product.

“We like to say we make animal products without the animal,” Gafour told Crunchbase News. “It generally involves animal cells, but you just need a sample of the cells. That is where we come in. We make the food for the cells so they grow and multiply.”

Traditional methods of making cellular meat used fetal bovine serum harvested from slaughterhouses or growth factors produced by microbes, Gafour said. Both methods are expensive and difficult to scale, which caused cellular meat to price at around $50 a pound compared to the average of less than $6 per pound for steak in the U.S.

To continue on its track, the Canadian company raised $2.2 million in seed funding, led by Bee Partners, with participation from Pioneer Fund, Narrative Fund, and existing investor Y Combinator. This round includes $125,000 in pre-seed funding from Y Combinator last August.

Kira Noodleman, principal at Bee Partners, said one of the firm’s investment theses is looking at the cellular agriculture market. In an interview, she said the firm identified some 60 companies focused on this space, but sees the challenge being the availability of the growth media.

“Each pound of meat requires up to 200 liters of growth media,” Noodleman added. “To win in this market, it has to be believable to get to scale. Growth media formulation is like Coca-Cola recipes — there is a secret sauce. Future Fields has found that for growth media and could potentially work with everyone.”

Meanwhile, Gafour declined to discuss growth metrics of the company, but said the funding will be used to scale the company and its novel product system.

The global market for animal meat was more than $2 trillion in 2018, and early projections suggest that cellular agriculture products will account for 10 percent of the market in the next decade, Gafour said.

Future Fields is getting out ahead of this having just announced the shipment of its first growth factor product to cellular meat producers.

“The growth media and growth factors are the last remaining hurdle because they are so expensive,” Gafour said. “We feel that shipping out products to customers is an important milestone sign that this is real and can make a better future of food for everyone.”

Illustration: Li-Anne Dias

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