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Food innovation

Cultured meat industry experts call for government funding during Tufts University Cellular Agriculture Innovation Day

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3 min read
AUTHOR: Stef Bottinelli
Tufts University campus

Mosa Meat Chief Scientific Officer Mark Post, The Good Food Institute Founder and President Bruce Friedrich, Isha Datar, Executive Director of New Harvest, and Uma Valeti, CEO and Founder of Upside Foods were just some of the industry experts speaking at Tufts University’s first annual Cellular Agriculture Innovation Day, which took place in Boston on Thursday 19 January.

The sector leaders joined a number of scientists from Tufts, Virginia Tech, UC Davis and the University of Vermont to discuss the current state of cellular agriculture.

Bruce Friedrich stressed the importance of funding, calling for governments to invest in the sector in the same manner as they’ve funded the renewables and electric vehicles industries. New Harvest’s Isha Datar echoed Friedrich’s statement on the need for public funding and added that cultured meat should not be perceived as a replacement for meat derived from animal slaughter, but should be considered a product in its own right, that could help feed humanity at times of environmental crisis. She also called for more collaboration between companies and scientists working in the cellular agriculture ecosystem and for more infrastructure.

Mark Post, who famously unveiled the first cultivated meat burger during a conference in London in 2013, highlighted three key areas the cellular agriculture sector needs to concentrate on: cost effectiveness, scalability, and getting the quality of the product right before commercialisation.

Uma Valeti, whose start-up Upside Foods received a ‘No Questions’ letter from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last November and is now working with the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) to secure the remaining approvals required before its cell-based chicken can be green-lit, stressed the importance of consumer education and acceptance before cultured meat goes to market. He also emphasised the need for the industry to be resilient, and to continuously move forward without being distracted by the critics. Despite the excitement about being on the verge of getting regulatory approval, he said cellular agriculture companies need to think about the long game and concentrate on the advancements that can be made in the next 30 years.

Collaboration between scientists and governments is a key factor, as is working with chefs to get feedback on the quality of cultivated products.

Training researchers in the sector and making programmes such as the Cellular Agriculture Certificate offered by Tufts University available and appealing to students was also highlighted as being of the utmost importance for the growth of the industry.

So far, the commercialisation of cultivated meat products for human consumption has only been approved in Singapore, where Eat Just’s division, GOOD Meat’s chicken has been made available at restaurant 1880 and more recently at Huber’s Butchery.

GOOD Meat bagged another win this week, following regulatory approval by the Singapore Food Agency (SFA) for the company’s foetal bovine serum-free growth media. The start-up will now start building a 6,000 litre-capacity bioreactor in partnership with biotech manufacturing company ABEC, Inc., following a $100M investment. The plant is due to open this year.

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