The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has made its first investment in cellular agriculture research and development.
The federal agency put forward US $10 million to support the first-ever Institute for Cellular Agriculture. It’s part of the USDA’s wider investment of $146 million into sustainable agricultural projects.
The hefty $10 million grant will be given to Tufts University over a period of five years to establish the institute.
CULT Food Science – an investment platform focusing exclusively on cell-based food – named it a ‘significant milestone’ for the field. Further, CULT says the investment sets cellular agriculture up to be the ‘future of food’.
What is cellular agriculture?
Cellular agriculture involves using cell cultures to create cell-based food, also known as cultured or cultivated food.
Scientists use biotechnology, tissue engineering, and molecular biology, among others, to produce proteins, fats, and tissues.
This allows for the production of ‘slaughter-free’ animal meat – a product which is biologically identical to conventional meat but can be made without killing animals.
Further, the process sidesteps many of the environmental risks associated with traditional meat production, such as deforestation and high emission output.
Institute for Cellular Agriculture
Tufts University Professor David Kaplan will lead the institute’s efforts. Kaplan will be joined by experts from five other academic institutions: Virginia State, Virginia Tech, MIT, UC Davis, and UMass Boston.
Together, they will explore the technical scaling challenges faced by the cultured food industry. This includes cell line development and cell culture media formulations.
Moreover, the institute will build educational programs related to the field. It will also support workplace development programs for students who may pursue jobs in the industry.
The institute’s overarching goal is to increase American agriculture productivity by 40 percent, all while halving the industry’s environmental impact.
‘A stronger, more sustainable future’
Dr. Ian Smith, Strategic Advisor to CULT, commented: “This USDA Centre of Excellence and its state-of-the-art associated infrastructure will empower more researchers to have greater access to resources in order to address the key technical and viability challenges behind cell-based meat and the wider cellular agriculture field.”
Rep. Katherine Clark also commended the move. Clark’s district includes the Tufts School of Engineering, where most of the research will take place.
“This is a major step forward in our work to tackle climate change, infuse resiliency into our food systems, and build a stronger, more sustainable future,” she said.
Cellular agriculture is increasingly taking center stage across the globe.
In October 2020, the EU made its first public investment into a cultured meat project. And recently, Singapore became the first country to approve the sale of cell-based meat.
Regulatory developments are also moving forward in Israel, the US, and Qatar.