Building Bioreactors: the 20+ companies paving the way for cultivated meat (and more)

Building Bioreactors: the 20+ companies paving the way for cultivated meat (and more)

By
Louise Burfitt
October 26, 2021

🧫  What is it?

  • Cultivated meat is all the rage, with a boom of press coverage about ‘test tube burgers’ winning many millions in venture capitalist funding along the way.
  • Less so is the press coverage about the enabling technologies that go behind creating these futuristic foods. But in order to make cultivated meat, dairy, and ingredients using precision fermentation, companies need bioreactors.
  • These large vats or chambers provide the ideal conditions for cells to multiply and grow, allowing cell lines to be developed for food production. 
  • The challenge is making cultivated foods work at scale. Because despite the fanatical coverage, cell-cultured food - whether meat, dairy or otherwise - is still a long way from supermarket aisles.
  • Lucky for them, there is a small but growing collection of companies designing and producing bioreactors with cultivated meat and biobased fermentation in mind that could change all that…

🤔 Tell me more…

  • The first cultured meat product was unveiled in 2013 for a whopping €250,000 a burger. Since then costs have dropped and technology has advanced remarkably quickly, but to all intents and purposes, cultivated meat (and similar products) is still stuck in purgatory.
  • The first bites of cultivated meat were made using small-scale gear in laboratories, but to scale up, companies will need larger equipment with volumes of several thousand litres and beyond. 
  • Yet one of the main obstacles to growth in the cultivated food sector is the lack of bioreactors needed to produce cultivated and bio-fermented foods en masse. Until supply can be scaled up, there’s no chance of it becoming a commercially viable sector. 
  • While there is plenty of funding going into Synbio and Cultivated meat companies - funding for bioreactors or B2b technologies in cultivated foods is just less exciting to headlines and with that to investors too.
  • A good analogy (and to paraphrase Edward Snowden) is that everyone is investing into crypto, but compared to the volume traded, little to no money goes into platforms and technologies that enable the crypto boom.

📈 The figures

  • The global bioreactors market was worth $2615.4 million in 2020, and is projected to reach $7328.4 million by 2030, growing at a CAGR of 10.7% from 2021-2030.
  • This figure includes bioreactors used for medicines and other pharmaceuticals, as well as for food and fermented products.

🤷‍♂️ Why?

  • As demand for meat and dairy alternatives has increased dramatically, manufacturers of cell-based products have found that one of the biggest barriers to scaling up production is the limited amount of bioreactors available - companies simply can’t make their products as fast as they’d like. That’s why a fresh wave of companies is stepping in to fill the space.
  • The rise in cultured meat companies that need bioreactors is largely down to environmental and ethical concerns surrounding conventional meat farming, population growth, and emissions. And the effect of the pandemic on supply chains has commentators speculating that the transition to cell-based meat may be faster than envisaged as bioreactor firms proliferate. 
  • Then there’s the fact that traditional bioreactor systems weren’t originally designed as factories for producing cell-based food. They were made for producing pharmaceuticals or for fermented products, like brewing beer. And that means the existing equipment isn’t always best for the job at hand, adding cost and time to the process.

🔍 How is it shaping up?

  • The primary application for bioreactors in the food and drink space is for cell-based meat: several startups around the world, including Ark Biotech, CELLULAR AGRICULTURE and SingCell, are designing bioreactors specifically for cultivated or ‘clean’ meat. This development clearly speaks to the lack of purpose-built reactors in the space. 
  • Many of the newer entrants to the bioreactor space are trying to make the lives of cell-based startups easier. Unicorn Biotechnologies, for example, is building a modular system designed specifically for cultivated meat companies. This would simplify the scaling-up process, so companies could simply add new modules to their existing equipment as they grew, making the process more efficient and cost-effective. In a similar vein, Ark Biotech are developing purpose-built production systems specifically for cultured meat.
  • And some cell-based meat producers are themselves thinking of setting up their own production facilities. Last year, UPSIDE Foods (formerly Memphis Meats) announced plans to open its own manufacturing plant while Wild Type and Future Meat Technologies unveiled their own pilot plants this summer. 
  • Bioprocessing tech and equipment can also be used in the creation of other alternative cell-based food products, including substitutes for dairy, eggs and honey. And some companies, like QOA, are using cell-based equipment for their products too - in this case, molecular chocolate grown in bioreactors.
  • Other bioprocessing companies are targeting the alt protein and bio-fermented foods space on a broader scale - stateside company BioBrew aspires to enable the next evolution in fermentation to more sustainably, safely and reliably feed the world. Dutch firm Biostream International and ESCO ASTER in Singapore have similar goals.
Future Meat Technologies

💬 What those in the know say…

  • Sara Marquart, co-founder of molecular chocolate company QOA, is well-versed in bioreactors thanks to her company’s cocoa-free chocolates: ‘Our smallest bioreactors started from €300k and reached €600k at larger volumes - and this is still at pilot scale. We sourced our bioreactors from some of the big names in the industry, which also supply the pharmaceutical sector.’ 
  • Leo Groenewegen, co-founder of UK company CellulaREvolution, explained some of the different types of bioreactors currently on the market: ‘There are several types of cell-culturing methods available for the cultured meat industry.  Starting from very small, inefficient methods for small scale lab-based testing to much larger bioreactors, and our in-house Continuous Bioreactor!’
  • Like other companies in the field, CellulaREvolution is tackling the scale-up process with its technology: ‘The number of cells cultured meat companies need to generate to make their final products is extremely high. Current bioreactors used for mammalian cell culture are instead producing smaller quantities of high-end biopharmaceutical or cell therapy products, so bioprocessing innovations really are required to make cultured meat products at scale and at affordable costs.’
  • QOA’s Marquart also believes prices need to come down for bioprocessing equipment to become more accessible: ‘As both the hardware and software of bioreactors are relatively simple, I am still surprised by the costs. Biotech and life sciences companies are perhaps used to the high prices, but as the technology becomes more commonly used in food production, I hope prices will reduce.’
  • CellulaREvolution’s new bioreactor is bringing down capital costs by allowing continuous processing instead of batch-processing. Groenewegen explained, ‘Moving from batch to continuous processing offers several advantages, such as improved productivity, reduced footprint and costs. Our technology provides a 3 times improvement to yield per unit volume of reactor and is being developed as a scalable technology for serving full production capacities of 10,000 – 100,000 tonnes cultured meat per annum.

👀 Who? (26 companies in this space)

🧪 Case study: Ark Biotech

  • Ark Biotech is getting ahead of the predicted increased demand for bioreactors with new technology and know-how to help companies in the sector scale up their production. 
  • Founder and CEO of the NY-based startup, Yossi Quint, says: ‘Cultivated meat has the potential to be the most revolutionary protein innovation since the domestication of animals thousands of years ago. The creation of a new protein economy has the potential to create a more sustainable food system, reduce animal suffering, improve peoples’ health, and reduce issues of food security. Ark is a mission-driven company that wants to support this massive shift in how we eat - a shift that will require an equally massive infrastructure build-out, both in scale and in spending.’
  • Accordingly, Ark is hyper-focused on creating fit-for-purpose production systems for cultivated meat. ‘The opportunity is too big to be distracted with other use cases,’ says Quint.
  • The cultivated meat community is still a tight-knit one, Ark’s CEO said, and Ark’s team has many relationships with companies in the space which should serve them well as they build their bioreactor business.
  • Aside from manufacturing using bioreactors, Quint also predicts opportunities for add-ons in the segment such as companies focused on filters and downstream processing to companies providing labour training to ensure there are enough folks to work in the cultivated meat factories.
Culture Biosciences

 ​​🇺🇸 Case study: Culture Biosciences

  • Culture Biosciences is a US-based biotech company specialising in providing bioprocessing equipment to other biotech companies, like cultured food companies who need bioreactors to grow cells for their food or products. 
  • Founded in 2019 and based in tech hub San Francisco, Culture’s tagline is ‘A better way to run bioreactors’. The startup boasts a staff lineup of engineers and scientists to back up this claim. 
  • Culture has been buying up equipment since they were founded and renting it out to companies that need it via an online cloud-based platform, a bit like an AirBnB for cell-cultured entrepreneurs who can’t or don’t want to invest in their own tech. 
  • The startup hopes that their model will speed up the process of developing a cell-based product and bring cultivated foods to market more quickly.
  • This autumn, the company raised $80m in Series B funding to expand its offering in response to increased demand for large-scale biomanufacturing. 
  • Selected clients who make use of Culture’s facilities include The EVERY Company (formerly Clara Foods), who are making animal-free protein, and ingredients company Geltor Inc.
Bioengineering AG

👍 The good

  • Manufacturing on a broader scale ultimately means wider availability and lower prices for cultivated meat, dairy and the like - and, subsequently, a broader range of future customers. The Good Food Institute believes cultivated meat could be cost-competitive by 2030.
  • Bioreactors offer process control as well as opportunities for scalability - both of which make for more end product, and one that’s of a higher quality.
  • The advances we’re now seeing are only the beginning: continuing R&D is likely to throw up new opportunities for even better cost and efficiency gains. 
  • Companies can hone in on certain areas - with some focusing on automation and IOT whereas other concentrated on cell density and yield - to attract specific customers and a high degree of specialisation.
  • There’s also business opportunities in adjacent spaces, whether that’s companies that supply maintenance, cleaning and replacement parts for bioreactors, or those that provide training for staff working with the technology.
  • Lastly, investors looking to get in on the cultivated meat industry should look towards bioreactors and enabling technologies where plenty of opportunities exist and valuations are typically lower than consumer-facing solutions.

👎 The bad

  • Costs are still significant (which is why rent-a-bioreactor services like Culture Bioscience’s exist), but they are likely to fall over time. 
  • There are also issues around patenting and licensing, with some calling for open-source cell-based tech and equipment plans to make the technology more accessible.
  • Global capacity is still far below what is needed were cell-based foods ever to replace or substitute for conventional meat and dairy. And that’s a problem, given the urgent need to change the way we farm. 
  • Companies will need more than just the bioreactors themselves: staff need to be trained, facilities need to be built, new ways of working need to be integrated. This all takes significant time and investment.
  • Aside from a strong product/tech - this is a sales game. The more competitive this segment gets, the more companies will be fighting for clientele and bioreactors companies will need to build sales machines.
  • Lastly, the cultivated food segment is young and full of risks, and startups in this space may want to go with established players in the industry rather than taking a chance on a fellow startup working on building the future of bioreactors.

 💡The bottom line

  • Despite the many advances in the sector in recent years, cell-cultured foods are still in their infancy. But bioreactors and bioprocessing hold the keys to their growth and technology is improving as we speak. 
  • Whether cultivated products will ever become ‘the norm’ depends hugely on the availability, cost and sustainability of the bioprocessing equipment on the market, and with every new startup, funding round and technological advance, the future - whatever it holds - inches a little closer…
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🧫  What is it?

  • Cultivated meat is all the rage, with a boom of press coverage about ‘test tube burgers’ winning many millions in venture capitalist funding along the way.
  • Less so is the press coverage about the enabling technologies that go behind creating these futuristic foods. But in order to make cultivated meat, dairy, and ingredients using precision fermentation, companies need bioreactors.
  • These large vats or chambers provide the ideal conditions for cells to multiply and grow, allowing cell lines to be developed for food production. 
  • The challenge is making cultivated foods work at scale. Because despite the fanatical coverage, cell-cultured food - whether meat, dairy or otherwise - is still a long way from supermarket aisles.
  • Lucky for them, there is a small but growing collection of companies designing and producing bioreactors with cultivated meat and biobased fermentation in mind that could change all that…

🤔 Tell me more…

  • The first cultured meat product was unveiled in 2013 for a whopping €250,000 a burger. Since then costs have dropped and technology has advanced remarkably quickly, but to all intents and purposes, cultivated meat (and similar products) is still stuck in purgatory.
  • The first bites of cultivated meat were made using small-scale gear in laboratories, but to scale up, companies will need larger equipment with volumes of several thousand litres and beyond. 
  • Yet one of the main obstacles to growth in the cultivated food sector is the lack of bioreactors needed to produce cultivated and bio-fermented foods en masse. Until supply can be scaled up, there’s no chance of it becoming a commercially viable sector. 
  • While there is plenty of funding going into Synbio and Cultivated meat companies - funding for bioreactors or B2b technologies in cultivated foods is just less exciting to headlines and with that to investors too.
  • A good analogy (and to paraphrase Edward Snowden) is that everyone is investing into crypto, but compared to the volume traded, little to no money goes into platforms and technologies that enable the crypto boom.

📈 The figures

  • The global bioreactors market was worth $2615.4 million in 2020, and is projected to reach $7328.4 million by 2030, growing at a CAGR of 10.7% from 2021-2030.
  • This figure includes bioreactors used for medicines and other pharmaceuticals, as well as for food and fermented products.

🤷‍♂️ Why?

  • As demand for meat and dairy alternatives has increased dramatically, manufacturers of cell-based products have found that one of the biggest barriers to scaling up production is the limited amount of bioreactors available - companies simply can’t make their products as fast as they’d like. That’s why a fresh wave of companies is stepping in to fill the space.
  • The rise in cultured meat companies that need bioreactors is largely down to environmental and ethical concerns surrounding conventional meat farming, population growth, and emissions. And the effect of the pandemic on supply chains has commentators speculating that the transition to cell-based meat may be faster than envisaged as bioreactor firms proliferate. 
  • Then there’s the fact that traditional bioreactor systems weren’t originally designed as factories for producing cell-based food. They were made for producing pharmaceuticals or for fermented products, like brewing beer. And that means the existing equipment isn’t always best for the job at hand, adding cost and time to the process.

🔍 How is it shaping up?

  • The primary application for bioreactors in the food and drink space is for cell-based meat: several startups around the world, including Ark Biotech, CELLULAR AGRICULTURE and SingCell, are designing bioreactors specifically for cultivated or ‘clean’ meat. This development clearly speaks to the lack of purpose-built reactors in the space. 
  • Many of the newer entrants to the bioreactor space are trying to make the lives of cell-based startups easier. Unicorn Biotechnologies, for example, is building a modular system designed specifically for cultivated meat companies. This would simplify the scaling-up process, so companies could simply add new modules to their existing equipment as they grew, making the process more efficient and cost-effective. In a similar vein, Ark Biotech are developing purpose-built production systems specifically for cultured meat.
  • And some cell-based meat producers are themselves thinking of setting up their own production facilities. Last year, UPSIDE Foods (formerly Memphis Meats) announced plans to open its own manufacturing plant while Wild Type and Future Meat Technologies unveiled their own pilot plants this summer. 
  • Bioprocessing tech and equipment can also be used in the creation of other alternative cell-based food products, including substitutes for dairy, eggs and honey. And some companies, like QOA, are using cell-based equipment for their products too - in this case, molecular chocolate grown in bioreactors.
  • Other bioprocessing companies are targeting the alt protein and bio-fermented foods space on a broader scale - stateside company BioBrew aspires to enable the next evolution in fermentation to more sustainably, safely and reliably feed the world. Dutch firm Biostream International and ESCO ASTER in Singapore have similar goals.
Future Meat Technologies

💬 What those in the know say…

  • Sara Marquart, co-founder of molecular chocolate company QOA, is well-versed in bioreactors thanks to her company’s cocoa-free chocolates: ‘Our smallest bioreactors started from €300k and reached €600k at larger volumes - and this is still at pilot scale. We sourced our bioreactors from some of the big names in the industry, which also supply the pharmaceutical sector.’ 
  • Leo Groenewegen, co-founder of UK company CellulaREvolution, explained some of the different types of bioreactors currently on the market: ‘There are several types of cell-culturing methods available for the cultured meat industry.  Starting from very small, inefficient methods for small scale lab-based testing to much larger bioreactors, and our in-house Continuous Bioreactor!’
  • Like other companies in the field, CellulaREvolution is tackling the scale-up process with its technology: ‘The number of cells cultured meat companies need to generate to make their final products is extremely high. Current bioreactors used for mammalian cell culture are instead producing smaller quantities of high-end biopharmaceutical or cell therapy products, so bioprocessing innovations really are required to make cultured meat products at scale and at affordable costs.’
  • QOA’s Marquart also believes prices need to come down for bioprocessing equipment to become more accessible: ‘As both the hardware and software of bioreactors are relatively simple, I am still surprised by the costs. Biotech and life sciences companies are perhaps used to the high prices, but as the technology becomes more commonly used in food production, I hope prices will reduce.’
  • CellulaREvolution’s new bioreactor is bringing down capital costs by allowing continuous processing instead of batch-processing. Groenewegen explained, ‘Moving from batch to continuous processing offers several advantages, such as improved productivity, reduced footprint and costs. Our technology provides a 3 times improvement to yield per unit volume of reactor and is being developed as a scalable technology for serving full production capacities of 10,000 – 100,000 tonnes cultured meat per annum.

👀 Who? (26 companies in this space)

🧪 Case study: Ark Biotech

  • Ark Biotech is getting ahead of the predicted increased demand for bioreactors with new technology and know-how to help companies in the sector scale up their production. 
  • Founder and CEO of the NY-based startup, Yossi Quint, says: ‘Cultivated meat has the potential to be the most revolutionary protein innovation since the domestication of animals thousands of years ago. The creation of a new protein economy has the potential to create a more sustainable food system, reduce animal suffering, improve peoples’ health, and reduce issues of food security. Ark is a mission-driven company that wants to support this massive shift in how we eat - a shift that will require an equally massive infrastructure build-out, both in scale and in spending.’
  • Accordingly, Ark is hyper-focused on creating fit-for-purpose production systems for cultivated meat. ‘The opportunity is too big to be distracted with other use cases,’ says Quint.
  • The cultivated meat community is still a tight-knit one, Ark’s CEO said, and Ark’s team has many relationships with companies in the space which should serve them well as they build their bioreactor business.
  • Aside from manufacturing using bioreactors, Quint also predicts opportunities for add-ons in the segment such as companies focused on filters and downstream processing to companies providing labour training to ensure there are enough folks to work in the cultivated meat factories.
Culture Biosciences

 ​​🇺🇸 Case study: Culture Biosciences

  • Culture Biosciences is a US-based biotech company specialising in providing bioprocessing equipment to other biotech companies, like cultured food companies who need bioreactors to grow cells for their food or products. 
  • Founded in 2019 and based in tech hub San Francisco, Culture’s tagline is ‘A better way to run bioreactors’. The startup boasts a staff lineup of engineers and scientists to back up this claim. 
  • Culture has been buying up equipment since they were founded and renting it out to companies that need it via an online cloud-based platform, a bit like an AirBnB for cell-cultured entrepreneurs who can’t or don’t want to invest in their own tech. 
  • The startup hopes that their model will speed up the process of developing a cell-based product and bring cultivated foods to market more quickly.
  • This autumn, the company raised $80m in Series B funding to expand its offering in response to increased demand for large-scale biomanufacturing. 
  • Selected clients who make use of Culture’s facilities include The EVERY Company (formerly Clara Foods), who are making animal-free protein, and ingredients company Geltor Inc.
Bioengineering AG

👍 The good

  • Manufacturing on a broader scale ultimately means wider availability and lower prices for cultivated meat, dairy and the like - and, subsequently, a broader range of future customers. The Good Food Institute believes cultivated meat could be cost-competitive by 2030.
  • Bioreactors offer process control as well as opportunities for scalability - both of which make for more end product, and one that’s of a higher quality.
  • The advances we’re now seeing are only the beginning: continuing R&D is likely to throw up new opportunities for even better cost and efficiency gains. 
  • Companies can hone in on certain areas - with some focusing on automation and IOT whereas other concentrated on cell density and yield - to attract specific customers and a high degree of specialisation.
  • There’s also business opportunities in adjacent spaces, whether that’s companies that supply maintenance, cleaning and replacement parts for bioreactors, or those that provide training for staff working with the technology.
  • Lastly, investors looking to get in on the cultivated meat industry should look towards bioreactors and enabling technologies where plenty of opportunities exist and valuations are typically lower than consumer-facing solutions.

👎 The bad

  • Costs are still significant (which is why rent-a-bioreactor services like Culture Bioscience’s exist), but they are likely to fall over time. 
  • There are also issues around patenting and licensing, with some calling for open-source cell-based tech and equipment plans to make the technology more accessible.
  • Global capacity is still far below what is needed were cell-based foods ever to replace or substitute for conventional meat and dairy. And that’s a problem, given the urgent need to change the way we farm. 
  • Companies will need more than just the bioreactors themselves: staff need to be trained, facilities need to be built, new ways of working need to be integrated. This all takes significant time and investment.
  • Aside from a strong product/tech - this is a sales game. The more competitive this segment gets, the more companies will be fighting for clientele and bioreactors companies will need to build sales machines.
  • Lastly, the cultivated food segment is young and full of risks, and startups in this space may want to go with established players in the industry rather than taking a chance on a fellow startup working on building the future of bioreactors.

 💡The bottom line

  • Despite the many advances in the sector in recent years, cell-cultured foods are still in their infancy. But bioreactors and bioprocessing hold the keys to their growth and technology is improving as we speak. 
  • Whether cultivated products will ever become ‘the norm’ depends hugely on the availability, cost and sustainability of the bioprocessing equipment on the market, and with every new startup, funding round and technological advance, the future - whatever it holds - inches a little closer…

🧫  What is it?

  • Cultivated meat is all the rage, with a boom of press coverage about ‘test tube burgers’ winning many millions in venture capitalist funding along the way.
  • Less so is the press coverage about the enabling technologies that go behind creating these futuristic foods. But in order to make cultivated meat, dairy, and ingredients using precision fermentation, companies need bioreactors.
  • These large vats or chambers provide the ideal conditions for cells to multiply and grow, allowing cell lines to be developed for food production. 
  • The challenge is making cultivated foods work at scale. Because despite the fanatical coverage, cell-cultured food - whether meat, dairy or otherwise - is still a long way from supermarket aisles.
  • Lucky for them, there is a small but growing collection of companies designing and producing bioreactors with cultivated meat and biobased fermentation in mind that could change all that…

🤔 Tell me more…

  • The first cultured meat product was unveiled in 2013 for a whopping €250,000 a burger. Since then costs have dropped and technology has advanced remarkably quickly, but to all intents and purposes, cultivated meat (and similar products) is still stuck in purgatory.
  • The first bites of cultivated meat were made using small-scale gear in laboratories, but to scale up, companies will need larger equipment with volumes of several thousand litres and beyond. 
  • Yet one of the main obstacles to growth in the cultivated food sector is the lack of bioreactors needed to produce cultivated and bio-fermented foods en masse. Until supply can be scaled up, there’s no chance of it becoming a commercially viable sector. 
  • While there is plenty of funding going into Synbio and Cultivated meat companies - funding for bioreactors or B2b technologies in cultivated foods is just less exciting to headlines and with that to investors too.
  • A good analogy (and to paraphrase Edward Snowden) is that everyone is investing into crypto, but compared to the volume traded, little to no money goes into platforms and technologies that enable the crypto boom.

📈 The figures

  • The global bioreactors market was worth $2615.4 million in 2020, and is projected to reach $7328.4 million by 2030, growing at a CAGR of 10.7% from 2021-2030.
  • This figure includes bioreactors used for medicines and other pharmaceuticals, as well as for food and fermented products.

🤷‍♂️ Why?

  • As demand for meat and dairy alternatives has increased dramatically, manufacturers of cell-based products have found that one of the biggest barriers to scaling up production is the limited amount of bioreactors available - companies simply can’t make their products as fast as they’d like. That’s why a fresh wave of companies is stepping in to fill the space.
  • The rise in cultured meat companies that need bioreactors is largely down to environmental and ethical concerns surrounding conventional meat farming, population growth, and emissions. And the effect of the pandemic on supply chains has commentators speculating that the transition to cell-based meat may be faster than envisaged as bioreactor firms proliferate. 
  • Then there’s the fact that traditional bioreactor systems weren’t originally designed as factories for producing cell-based food. They were made for producing pharmaceuticals or for fermented products, like brewing beer. And that means the existing equipment isn’t always best for the job at hand, adding cost and time to the process.

🔍 How is it shaping up?

  • The primary application for bioreactors in the food and drink space is for cell-based meat: several startups around the world, including Ark Biotech, CELLULAR AGRICULTURE and SingCell, are designing bioreactors specifically for cultivated or ‘clean’ meat. This development clearly speaks to the lack of purpose-built reactors in the space. 
  • Many of the newer entrants to the bioreactor space are trying to make the lives of cell-based startups easier. Unicorn Biotechnologies, for example, is building a modular system designed specifically for cultivated meat companies. This would simplify the scaling-up process, so companies could simply add new modules to their existing equipment as they grew, making the process more efficient and cost-effective. In a similar vein, Ark Biotech are developing purpose-built production systems specifically for cultured meat.
  • And some cell-based meat producers are themselves thinking of setting up their own production facilities. Last year, UPSIDE Foods (formerly Memphis Meats) announced plans to open its own manufacturing plant while Wild Type and Future Meat Technologies unveiled their own pilot plants this summer. 
  • Bioprocessing tech and equipment can also be used in the creation of other alternative cell-based food products, including substitutes for dairy, eggs and honey. And some companies, like QOA, are using cell-based equipment for their products too - in this case, molecular chocolate grown in bioreactors.
  • Other bioprocessing companies are targeting the alt protein and bio-fermented foods space on a broader scale - stateside company BioBrew aspires to enable the next evolution in fermentation to more sustainably, safely and reliably feed the world. Dutch firm Biostream International and ESCO ASTER in Singapore have similar goals.
Future Meat Technologies

💬 What those in the know say…

  • Sara Marquart, co-founder of molecular chocolate company QOA, is well-versed in bioreactors thanks to her company’s cocoa-free chocolates: ‘Our smallest bioreactors started from €300k and reached €600k at larger volumes - and this is still at pilot scale. We sourced our bioreactors from some of the big names in the industry, which also supply the pharmaceutical sector.’ 
  • Leo Groenewegen, co-founder of UK company CellulaREvolution, explained some of the different types of bioreactors currently on the market: ‘There are several types of cell-culturing methods available for the cultured meat industry.  Starting from very small, inefficient methods for small scale lab-based testing to much larger bioreactors, and our in-house Continuous Bioreactor!’
  • Like other companies in the field, CellulaREvolution is tackling the scale-up process with its technology: ‘The number of cells cultured meat companies need to generate to make their final products is extremely high. Current bioreactors used for mammalian cell culture are instead producing smaller quantities of high-end biopharmaceutical or cell therapy products, so bioprocessing innovations really are required to make cultured meat products at scale and at affordable costs.’
  • QOA’s Marquart also believes prices need to come down for bioprocessing equipment to become more accessible: ‘As both the hardware and software of bioreactors are relatively simple, I am still surprised by the costs. Biotech and life sciences companies are perhaps used to the high prices, but as the technology becomes more commonly used in food production, I hope prices will reduce.’
  • CellulaREvolution’s new bioreactor is bringing down capital costs by allowing continuous processing instead of batch-processing. Groenewegen explained, ‘Moving from batch to continuous processing offers several advantages, such as improved productivity, reduced footprint and costs. Our technology provides a 3 times improvement to yield per unit volume of reactor and is being developed as a scalable technology for serving full production capacities of 10,000 – 100,000 tonnes cultured meat per annum.

👀 Who? (26 companies in this space)

🧪 Case study: Ark Biotech

  • Ark Biotech is getting ahead of the predicted increased demand for bioreactors with new technology and know-how to help companies in the sector scale up their production. 
  • Founder and CEO of the NY-based startup, Yossi Quint, says: ‘Cultivated meat has the potential to be the most revolutionary protein innovation since the domestication of animals thousands of years ago. The creation of a new protein economy has the potential to create a more sustainable food system, reduce animal suffering, improve peoples’ health, and reduce issues of food security. Ark is a mission-driven company that wants to support this massive shift in how we eat - a shift that will require an equally massive infrastructure build-out, both in scale and in spending.’
  • Accordingly, Ark is hyper-focused on creating fit-for-purpose production systems for cultivated meat. ‘The opportunity is too big to be distracted with other use cases,’ says Quint.
  • The cultivated meat community is still a tight-knit one, Ark’s CEO said, and Ark’s team has many relationships with companies in the space which should serve them well as they build their bioreactor business.
  • Aside from manufacturing using bioreactors, Quint also predicts opportunities for add-ons in the segment such as companies focused on filters and downstream processing to companies providing labour training to ensure there are enough folks to work in the cultivated meat factories.
Culture Biosciences

 ​​🇺🇸 Case study: Culture Biosciences

  • Culture Biosciences is a US-based biotech company specialising in providing bioprocessing equipment to other biotech companies, like cultured food companies who need bioreactors to grow cells for their food or products. 
  • Founded in 2019 and based in tech hub San Francisco, Culture’s tagline is ‘A better way to run bioreactors’. The startup boasts a staff lineup of engineers and scientists to back up this claim. 
  • Culture has been buying up equipment since they were founded and renting it out to companies that need it via an online cloud-based platform, a bit like an AirBnB for cell-cultured entrepreneurs who can’t or don’t want to invest in their own tech. 
  • The startup hopes that their model will speed up the process of developing a cell-based product and bring cultivated foods to market more quickly.
  • This autumn, the company raised $80m in Series B funding to expand its offering in response to increased demand for large-scale biomanufacturing. 
  • Selected clients who make use of Culture’s facilities include The EVERY Company (formerly Clara Foods), who are making animal-free protein, and ingredients company Geltor Inc.
Bioengineering AG

👍 The good

  • Manufacturing on a broader scale ultimately means wider availability and lower prices for cultivated meat, dairy and the like - and, subsequently, a broader range of future customers. The Good Food Institute believes cultivated meat could be cost-competitive by 2030.
  • Bioreactors offer process control as well as opportunities for scalability - both of which make for more end product, and one that’s of a higher quality.
  • The advances we’re now seeing are only the beginning: continuing R&D is likely to throw up new opportunities for even better cost and efficiency gains. 
  • Companies can hone in on certain areas - with some focusing on automation and IOT whereas other concentrated on cell density and yield - to attract specific customers and a high degree of specialisation.
  • There’s also business opportunities in adjacent spaces, whether that’s companies that supply maintenance, cleaning and replacement parts for bioreactors, or those that provide training for staff working with the technology.
  • Lastly, investors looking to get in on the cultivated meat industry should look towards bioreactors and enabling technologies where plenty of opportunities exist and valuations are typically lower than consumer-facing solutions.

👎 The bad

  • Costs are still significant (which is why rent-a-bioreactor services like Culture Bioscience’s exist), but they are likely to fall over time. 
  • There are also issues around patenting and licensing, with some calling for open-source cell-based tech and equipment plans to make the technology more accessible.
  • Global capacity is still far below what is needed were cell-based foods ever to replace or substitute for conventional meat and dairy. And that’s a problem, given the urgent need to change the way we farm. 
  • Companies will need more than just the bioreactors themselves: staff need to be trained, facilities need to be built, new ways of working need to be integrated. This all takes significant time and investment.
  • Aside from a strong product/tech - this is a sales game. The more competitive this segment gets, the more companies will be fighting for clientele and bioreactors companies will need to build sales machines.
  • Lastly, the cultivated food segment is young and full of risks, and startups in this space may want to go with established players in the industry rather than taking a chance on a fellow startup working on building the future of bioreactors.

 💡The bottom line

  • Despite the many advances in the sector in recent years, cell-cultured foods are still in their infancy. But bioreactors and bioprocessing hold the keys to their growth and technology is improving as we speak. 
  • Whether cultivated products will ever become ‘the norm’ depends hugely on the availability, cost and sustainability of the bioprocessing equipment on the market, and with every new startup, funding round and technological advance, the future - whatever it holds - inches a little closer…

🧫  What is it?

  • Cultivated meat is all the rage, with a boom of press coverage about ‘test tube burgers’ winning many millions in venture capitalist funding along the way.
  • Less so is the press coverage about the enabling technologies that go behind creating these futuristic foods. But in order to make cultivated meat, dairy, and ingredients using precision fermentation, companies need bioreactors.
  • These large vats or chambers provide the ideal conditions for cells to multiply and grow, allowing cell lines to be developed for food production. 
  • The challenge is making cultivated foods work at scale. Because despite the fanatical coverage, cell-cultured food - whether meat, dairy or otherwise - is still a long way from supermarket aisles.
  • Lucky for them, there is a small but growing collection of companies designing and producing bioreactors with cultivated meat and biobased fermentation in mind that could change all that…

🤔 Tell me more…

  • The first cultured meat product was unveiled in 2013 for a whopping €250,000 a burger. Since then costs have dropped and technology has advanced remarkably quickly, but to all intents and purposes, cultivated meat (and similar products) is still stuck in purgatory.
  • The first bites of cultivated meat were made using small-scale gear in laboratories, but to scale up, companies will need larger equipment with volumes of several thousand litres and beyond. 
  • Yet one of the main obstacles to growth in the cultivated food sector is the lack of bioreactors needed to produce cultivated and bio-fermented foods en masse. Until supply can be scaled up, there’s no chance of it becoming a commercially viable sector. 
  • While there is plenty of funding going into Synbio and Cultivated meat companies - funding for bioreactors or B2b technologies in cultivated foods is just less exciting to headlines and with that to investors too.
  • A good analogy (and to paraphrase Edward Snowden) is that everyone is investing into crypto, but compared to the volume traded, little to no money goes into platforms and technologies that enable the crypto boom.

📈 The figures

  • The global bioreactors market was worth $2615.4 million in 2020, and is projected to reach $7328.4 million by 2030, growing at a CAGR of 10.7% from 2021-2030.
  • This figure includes bioreactors used for medicines and other pharmaceuticals, as well as for food and fermented products.

🤷‍♂️ Why?

  • As demand for meat and dairy alternatives has increased dramatically, manufacturers of cell-based products have found that one of the biggest barriers to scaling up production is the limited amount of bioreactors available - companies simply can’t make their products as fast as they’d like. That’s why a fresh wave of companies is stepping in to fill the space.
  • The rise in cultured meat companies that need bioreactors is largely down to environmental and ethical concerns surrounding conventional meat farming, population growth, and emissions. And the effect of the pandemic on supply chains has commentators speculating that the transition to cell-based meat may be faster than envisaged as bioreactor firms proliferate. 
  • Then there’s the fact that traditional bioreactor systems weren’t originally designed as factories for producing cell-based food. They were made for producing pharmaceuticals or for fermented products, like brewing beer. And that means the existing equipment isn’t always best for the job at hand, adding cost and time to the process.

🔍 How is it shaping up?

  • The primary application for bioreactors in the food and drink space is for cell-based meat: several startups around the world, including Ark Biotech, CELLULAR AGRICULTURE and SingCell, are designing bioreactors specifically for cultivated or ‘clean’ meat. This development clearly speaks to the lack of purpose-built reactors in the space. 
  • Many of the newer entrants to the bioreactor space are trying to make the lives of cell-based startups easier. Unicorn Biotechnologies, for example, is building a modular system designed specifically for cultivated meat companies. This would simplify the scaling-up process, so companies could simply add new modules to their existing equipment as they grew, making the process more efficient and cost-effective. In a similar vein, Ark Biotech are developing purpose-built production systems specifically for cultured meat.
  • And some cell-based meat producers are themselves thinking of setting up their own production facilities. Last year, UPSIDE Foods (formerly Memphis Meats) announced plans to open its own manufacturing plant while Wild Type and Future Meat Technologies unveiled their own pilot plants this summer. 
  • Bioprocessing tech and equipment can also be used in the creation of other alternative cell-based food products, including substitutes for dairy, eggs and honey. And some companies, like QOA, are using cell-based equipment for their products too - in this case, molecular chocolate grown in bioreactors.
  • Other bioprocessing companies are targeting the alt protein and bio-fermented foods space on a broader scale - stateside company BioBrew aspires to enable the next evolution in fermentation to more sustainably, safely and reliably feed the world. Dutch firm Biostream International and ESCO ASTER in Singapore have similar goals.
Future Meat Technologies

💬 What those in the know say…

  • Sara Marquart, co-founder of molecular chocolate company QOA, is well-versed in bioreactors thanks to her company’s cocoa-free chocolates: ‘Our smallest bioreactors started from €300k and reached €600k at larger volumes - and this is still at pilot scale. We sourced our bioreactors from some of the big names in the industry, which also supply the pharmaceutical sector.’ 
  • Leo Groenewegen, co-founder of UK company CellulaREvolution, explained some of the different types of bioreactors currently on the market: ‘There are several types of cell-culturing methods available for the cultured meat industry.  Starting from very small, inefficient methods for small scale lab-based testing to much larger bioreactors, and our in-house Continuous Bioreactor!’
  • Like other companies in the field, CellulaREvolution is tackling the scale-up process with its technology: ‘The number of cells cultured meat companies need to generate to make their final products is extremely high. Current bioreactors used for mammalian cell culture are instead producing smaller quantities of high-end biopharmaceutical or cell therapy products, so bioprocessing innovations really are required to make cultured meat products at scale and at affordable costs.’
  • QOA’s Marquart also believes prices need to come down for bioprocessing equipment to become more accessible: ‘As both the hardware and software of bioreactors are relatively simple, I am still surprised by the costs. Biotech and life sciences companies are perhaps used to the high prices, but as the technology becomes more commonly used in food production, I hope prices will reduce.’
  • CellulaREvolution’s new bioreactor is bringing down capital costs by allowing continuous processing instead of batch-processing. Groenewegen explained, ‘Moving from batch to continuous processing offers several advantages, such as improved productivity, reduced footprint and costs. Our technology provides a 3 times improvement to yield per unit volume of reactor and is being developed as a scalable technology for serving full production capacities of 10,000 – 100,000 tonnes cultured meat per annum.

👀 Who? (26 companies in this space)

🧪 Case study: Ark Biotech

  • Ark Biotech is getting ahead of the predicted increased demand for bioreactors with new technology and know-how to help companies in the sector scale up their production. 
  • Founder and CEO of the NY-based startup, Yossi Quint, says: ‘Cultivated meat has the potential to be the most revolutionary protein innovation since the domestication of animals thousands of years ago. The creation of a new protein economy has the potential to create a more sustainable food system, reduce animal suffering, improve peoples’ health, and reduce issues of food security. Ark is a mission-driven company that wants to support this massive shift in how we eat - a shift that will require an equally massive infrastructure build-out, both in scale and in spending.’
  • Accordingly, Ark is hyper-focused on creating fit-for-purpose production systems for cultivated meat. ‘The opportunity is too big to be distracted with other use cases,’ says Quint.
  • The cultivated meat community is still a tight-knit one, Ark’s CEO said, and Ark’s team has many relationships with companies in the space which should serve them well as they build their bioreactor business.
  • Aside from manufacturing using bioreactors, Quint also predicts opportunities for add-ons in the segment such as companies focused on filters and downstream processing to companies providing labour training to ensure there are enough folks to work in the cultivated meat factories.
Culture Biosciences

 ​​🇺🇸 Case study: Culture Biosciences

  • Culture Biosciences is a US-based biotech company specialising in providing bioprocessing equipment to other biotech companies, like cultured food companies who need bioreactors to grow cells for their food or products. 
  • Founded in 2019 and based in tech hub San Francisco, Culture’s tagline is ‘A better way to run bioreactors’. The startup boasts a staff lineup of engineers and scientists to back up this claim. 
  • Culture has been buying up equipment since they were founded and renting it out to companies that need it via an online cloud-based platform, a bit like an AirBnB for cell-cultured entrepreneurs who can’t or don’t want to invest in their own tech. 
  • The startup hopes that their model will speed up the process of developing a cell-based product and bring cultivated foods to market more quickly.
  • This autumn, the company raised $80m in Series B funding to expand its offering in response to increased demand for large-scale biomanufacturing. 
  • Selected clients who make use of Culture’s facilities include The EVERY Company (formerly Clara Foods), who are making animal-free protein, and ingredients company Geltor Inc.
Bioengineering AG

👍 The good

  • Manufacturing on a broader scale ultimately means wider availability and lower prices for cultivated meat, dairy and the like - and, subsequently, a broader range of future customers. The Good Food Institute believes cultivated meat could be cost-competitive by 2030.
  • Bioreactors offer process control as well as opportunities for scalability - both of which make for more end product, and one that’s of a higher quality.
  • The advances we’re now seeing are only the beginning: continuing R&D is likely to throw up new opportunities for even better cost and efficiency gains. 
  • Companies can hone in on certain areas - with some focusing on automation and IOT whereas other concentrated on cell density and yield - to attract specific customers and a high degree of specialisation.
  • There’s also business opportunities in adjacent spaces, whether that’s companies that supply maintenance, cleaning and replacement parts for bioreactors, or those that provide training for staff working with the technology.
  • Lastly, investors looking to get in on the cultivated meat industry should look towards bioreactors and enabling technologies where plenty of opportunities exist and valuations are typically lower than consumer-facing solutions.

👎 The bad

  • Costs are still significant (which is why rent-a-bioreactor services like Culture Bioscience’s exist), but they are likely to fall over time. 
  • There are also issues around patenting and licensing, with some calling for open-source cell-based tech and equipment plans to make the technology more accessible.
  • Global capacity is still far below what is needed were cell-based foods ever to replace or substitute for conventional meat and dairy. And that’s a problem, given the urgent need to change the way we farm. 
  • Companies will need more than just the bioreactors themselves: staff need to be trained, facilities need to be built, new ways of working need to be integrated. This all takes significant time and investment.
  • Aside from a strong product/tech - this is a sales game. The more competitive this segment gets, the more companies will be fighting for clientele and bioreactors companies will need to build sales machines.
  • Lastly, the cultivated food segment is young and full of risks, and startups in this space may want to go with established players in the industry rather than taking a chance on a fellow startup working on building the future of bioreactors.

 💡The bottom line

  • Despite the many advances in the sector in recent years, cell-cultured foods are still in their infancy. But bioreactors and bioprocessing hold the keys to their growth and technology is improving as we speak. 
  • Whether cultivated products will ever become ‘the norm’ depends hugely on the availability, cost and sustainability of the bioprocessing equipment on the market, and with every new startup, funding round and technological advance, the future - whatever it holds - inches a little closer…
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