San Francisco-based cultured meat startup Prolific Machines is launching a fresh funding round to make good on its promise to “enable the lowest cost of cell production in the world.” Essentially, it wants to make cultured meat affordable.
Looking to raise $170 million to evolve its proprietary cell-growing technology, the company hopes to garner success comparable to its initial funding raise in 2021.
In an investment round, Mark Cuban, a regular on the American business reality TV show Shark Tank, model Emily Ratajkowski, and singer Ciara all came on board. Alongside numerous others, the celebrity-powered raise brought in $42 million.
How does Prolific Machines plan to create price parity with regular meat?
Cultured meat’s progress to market has been slow for two reasons: lack of global regulatory approval and high associated costs. The latter has been a focal point for a number of companies. Like Prolific Machines, many are trying to replace fetal bovine serum (FBS) in the process.
FBS is extracted from pregnant cows at the point of slaughter. It is removed from the hearts of the cow’s unborn babies via a large syringe, without any anesthetic. It is commonly used in cultured meat development as a powerful growth medium.
However, FBS is expensive to source and increasingly unpopular due to the unethical collection method. As a result, multiple operations are now looking for alternative growth proteins. Taking a different approach, Prolific Machines claims that it has developed technology that removes the need for growth media altogether.
Having recently emerged from stealth operation, the company has not confirmed how it has made such a breakthrough. It also hasn’t clarified how much it will plummet the price of cell-based meat.
Will Cultured meat hit plates soon?
To date, only Singapore has granted approval for cultured meat. This is for just two products from one company: Eat Just’s cultured meat division GOOD Meat. There is scope for the US to follow suit soon. President Biden included the innovation in a new biotech-focused executive order.
Despite a lack of traction in previous years, there is a burgeoning cultured meat sector in the US.
Cell-based meat producer Upside Foods has been campaigning for regulatory approval since 2021. It hoped to get the green light before Christmas but was disappointed. Regardless, it opened its ”EPIC” facility in California, which can manufacture up to 400,000 pounds of cultured meat every year.
Prolific Machines will soon be a neighbor to Upside Foods, as it’s building its own 25,000-square-foot manufacturing plant in Emeryville.
In May, Eat Just announced it had signed an agreement to create the biggest-ever cultured meat bioreactors. The giant vats will be located in the US. They have the capacity to produce up to 30 million pounds of cultured meat.
Regulatory approval is not anticipated in the EU anytime soon, but Israel could see permission to sell cultured meat in the near future. A hub for cell-based startups, including SuperMeat, Aleph Farms, and MeaTech 3D, the country is poised for progress following the Israeli Innovation Authority granting approval and funding for the world’s largest cultured meta consortium.
Is cultured meat good for the environment?
Animal agriculture is responsible for at least 14.5 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. It also causes rampant deforestation in South America (including 91 percent of Amazon deforestation).
Research suggests that cultured alternatives could cut meat’s global warming impact by 92 percent. This is due to large-scale cultivation tanks replacing methane-emitting cows and the fact that many cultured startups are trying to include renewable energy in their facilities. Though animals are still required to harvest initial cells.
Conversely, a whole-foods plant-based diet is widely recommended as a simple and immediate way to dramatically slash climate impact. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) expert reviewer Dr. Peter Carter has categorically stated that “global veganization is now a survival imperative.”