Agriculture & foodtech Business Startups Venture

Upside Foods Becomes A Unicorn, Aims To Have Cultivated Meat To US Consumers This Year

Illustration of a petri dish with a rendering of a cow and labeled "Beef"

Upside Foods has raised a $400 million Series C round that it says brings its valuation to more than $1 billion and speeds up the path to commercialization of its cultured meat products.

Temasek and Abu Dhabi Growth Fund led the round for Upside, which plans to use the capital to build a commercial production facility and have its cultivated meat available to U.S. consumers later this year, pending regulatory approval.

CEO and founder Uma Valeti said Upside “has reached an historic inflection point, moving from R&D to commercialization.” The Berkeley, California-based company, founded in 2015, claims to be the first cultivated meat startup to produce lab-grown meat from multiple species: beef, chicken and duck.

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The raise is the largest funding round for a startup in the cultivated meat space. It follows on the heels of record investment into foodtech last year. More than $12.8 billion was invested in the sector in 2021, Crunchbase data shows, with $5.8 billion—nearly half—of that going toward startups working on alternatives to animal-based meat, seafood and dairy.

But while many other companies in the alternative protein space—including unicorns Impossible Foods and NotCo—are focused on plant-based products that mimic meat or dairy, startups like Upside develop cultivated meat. The term refers to food that is biologically the same as meat from living animals, but grown in facilities from small clusters of stem cells.

Another unicorn in the space, Eat Just,  became the first company in the world to gain regulatory approval to sell cultivate meat to consumers through its Good Meat subsidiary, which began offering cell-based chicken in Singapore in late 2020.

Proponents argue that cell-based meat is both a more ethical and environmentally sustainable way for humans to get the nutrition of meat without slaughtering animals, and, eventually, could be less expensive than raising and processing livestock for food.

Growth ahead

Upside says it has more than 170 employees and plans to grow its headcount with the new funding secured. Its new factory will be able to create cultivated versions of any species of meat, the company said, in both ground and whole-cut versions, although its initial focus will be on cultivated chicken.

It will also use the new funding to build out its supply chain and to invest in further research and development. The company will also focus on educating and convincing consumers to consider cell-based meat as an option, a particular challenge for foodtech companies.

Other new investors in Upside’s Series C round include Baillie Gifford, Givaudan, John Doerr, SALT Fund and Synthesis Capital. Also joining in the raise are existing investors Bill Gates, Cargill, Cercano Management, CPT Capital, Dentsu Ventures, EDBI, Kimbal and Christiana Musk, Norwest Venture Partners, SoftBank Vision Fund 2, SOSV’s IndieBio and Tyson Foods.

Illustration: Dom Guzman

Clarification: This story was updated to reflect that Eat Just also produces cultivated meat, through its subsidiary Good Meat.


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