Tyson Foods' venture capital fund today (May 2) announced a $2.2 million investment in Future Meat Technologies (FMT), an Israeli biotechnology company developing lab-grown meat.
In addition to Tyson Ventures, FMT snagged investments in the same capital-raising round from Neto Group, one of the largest food conglomerates in Israel; S2G Ventures, a Chicago-based venture capital fund; BitsXBites, China’s first food technology venture capital fund; New York-based HB Ventures; and Agrinnovation, an Israeli investment fund founded by Yissum, the Technology Transfer Company of The Hebrew University, where FMT's technology was developed and licensed.
The Jerusalem-based firm talks of "advancing a distributive manufacturing platform for the cost-efficient, non-GMO production of meat directly from animal cells, without the need to raise or harvest animals" and "manufacturing technology that enables the cost-efficient production of fat and muscle cells, the core building blocks of meat."
Yaakov Nahmias, the company’s founder and chief scientist, said: “It is difficult to imagine cultured meat becoming a reality with a current production price of about $10,000 per kilogram. We redesigned the manufacturing process until we brought it down to $800 per kilogram today, with a clear roadmap to $5-10 per kg by 2020.” Nahmias was a professor at The Hebrew University.
“This is our first investment in an Israel-based company and we’re excited about this opportunity to broaden our exposure to innovative, new ways of producing protein,” said Justin Whitmore, Tyson's executive vice president for corporate strategy and chief sustainability officer. “We continue to invest significantly in our traditional meat business but also believe in exploring additional opportunities for growth that give consumers more choices.”
There is a number of companies developing cultured meat, but FMT claims to be the only company that can produce animal fat without harvesting animals and without any genetic modification. Nahmias called fat a key to truly tasty cultured meat.
Future Meat Technologies expects to use the funds for engineering activities and biological research. The company currently is recruiting engineers, chefs and scientists.
Demand for meat is expected to double between 2000 and 2050, when the earth’s population is set to surpass 9 billion, and proponents of growing meat in the lab say it is the only way to meet such demand without destroying the environment. Reuters news service reported a study by Oxford University and the University of Amsterdam estimated that cultured meat would produce 96 percent less greenhouse gas, consume 82 to 96 percent less water and virtually eliminate land requirements needed to raise livestock.
In addition to FMT, Tyson back in January invested in Memphis Meats, which also is developing cultured meat; and last year it bought a stake in plant-based protein producer Beyond Meat.