Alternative protein start-up Future Meat Technologies has raised $14 million in a Series A funding round led by Chicago-based venture capital firm S2G Ventures.
Israel-based Future Meat uses a combination of plant-based proteins and lab-grown animal tissue to create hybrid chicken and beef products, as well as 100 per cent animal tissue products.
Describing the company’s methodology to Agri Investor, Future Meat founder and chief scientist Yaakov Nahmias said: “We’re focusing on the connective tissue [in animals] called fibroblasts.
“These are the cells that every time you get a cut, they repair that cut. Because they naturally grow fast, they need a low level of nutrients and they expand remarkably fast. They grow exponentially with a doubling rate of less than 24 hours.
“Once you get the biomass, you can turn it into fat that gives you the aroma and the flavor of meat or you can turn it into muscle, which gives you the texture and the protein content of meat. You can choose because it is the fibroblasts that actually become muscle or fat. This is all done without genetic intervention.”
Chicago’s S2G Ventures was joined in the funding round by Swiss VC firm Emerald Technology Ventures, Philippine food company Monde Nissin CEO Henry Soesanto, UK VC firm Manta Ray Ventures and Chinese VC investor Bits x Bites.
The Series A capital will be used to build Future Meat’s development facility, pilot production and soft local launch in 2020, at which point a Series B round will be launched. The Series B will “focus on developing our partnerships and putting in complete production models,” Nahmias said.
The start-up will prioritize its hybrid plant-protein and animal tissue product for its market entry in 2020, as this will allow it to offer chicken and beef products to consumers at a competitive price.
“If we create these hybrid products, we don’t need 100 percent of the biomass – we only need about 20-30 percent. It means [that] from a price point, we can reach the market within 18 months. That’s very appealing for us. The second line of products can be 100 percent [animal] cell-based,” he said.
Nahmias added that Future Meat’s approach means that it takes 14 days to go from start finish in its production process. This means production time is not impacted by the amount of meat being produced – this depends solely on the capacity of the bioreactor used.
“The reason the mass doesn’t matter is we’re using a high yield process. If you take a 600l bioreactor, that’s roughly the volume of a kitchen fridge. When you reach the optimal process, you can grow around 500kg of biomass every two weeks,” he said.
“That means you can grow around one tonne per month. If this was 100 percent cell-based meat, then it’s one tonne. But if you’re combining it with plant protein, you’re talking about the equivalent of three tonnes a month.”
The longterm vision for Future Meat, said the founder, is not to build an agribusiness brand. “I’m not interested in having a meat brand and competing with Cargill, I’m actually interested in building the technology that they depend on. I want to be the biggest company you never heard of,” he said.
As well as producing its chicken and beef products, the start-up also plants to use its method to develop pork and lamb alternatives.