Thursday, August 31, 2017 by Jhoanna Robinson
In just three years, you may be chomping down on a “lab burger” and putting gravy over a “test-tube chicken” if a new venture company has anything to say about it.
San Francisco, California-based startup Memphis Meats is intent on developing meat from stem cells. And they might just be successful, thanks to the investment of various high profile names and big-time companies in different industries.
Microsoft Corp. co-founder William Gates III, Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Charles Nicholas Branson, and Wayzata, Minnesota-based global agricultural firm Cargill, Inc. all recently made large capital infusions into the new firm.
Other high profile investors include entrepreneur and philanthropist Kimbal Musk, who is the brother of business magnate and Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) chief executive officer (CEO) Elon Musk; former General Electric CEO John Francis “Jack” Welch, Jr.; and live streaming video platform Twitch co-founder Kyle Vogt.
Completing the investor lineup are London-based tech investment firm Atomico; San Francisco-based tech firm Fifty Years; Los Angeles, California-based investment firm Inevitable Ventures; New York-based investment firm KBW Ventures; plant-based and cultured meat venture capital investment firm New Crop Capital; Princeton, New Jersey-based venture capital firm SOSV; and author Suzy Welch.
Memphis Meats had undergone a Series A venture capital funding round that was facilitated by Menlo Park, California-based venture capital firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson (DFJ), where it was infused with a lot of cash, to the tune of $17 million. Another venture capital funding round garnered it a total of $22 million in investments.
Memphis Meats wants to introduce the world to animal-free products – such as hot dogs, burgers, and meatballs that are grown from beef cells – within three to four years. (Related: Artificial meat would be a preferable alternative to the cruelty and environmental impact of factory farms.)
“The world loves to eat meat, and it is core to many of our cultures and traditions. Meat demand is growing rapidly around the world. We want the world to keep eating what it loves. However, the way conventional meat is produced today creates challenges for the environment, animal welfare, and human health,” said Memphis Meats co-founder and CEO, Dr. Uma Valeti.
“These are problems that everyone wants to solve, and we can solve them by bringing this incredible group of partners under one tent. This group will help us accelerate our progress significantly,” she added.
The new firm plans on reinventing modern animal agriculture. It says that with the help of their high-tech processes, they aim to produce less than 90 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, need less nutrients, and do away with the practice of adding additives or antibiotics to their products.
For instance, while generating one calorie from beef requires 23 calories in feed, they plan to make it so they can manufacture a calorie of meat from just three calories in feed.
The new company is looking forward to quadrupling its current manpower and is currently working on getting more heads to staff the clean meat firm, with the end goal of bringing down production costs.
It will compete with other startups that have the same goals in mind, such as Redwood, California-based Impossible Foods, Inc.; Dutch company Mosa Meat; and another San Francisco-based food startup, Hampton Creek.
Memphis Meats was able to grow its first lab-made chicken earlier this year.
Carolina Brochado, venture partner at Atomico, said they are optimistic that Memphis Meats is the one company that will be able to make its dreams a reality, saying, “They are the ones closest to producing a different kind of meat – red meat, duck, chicken. Adding things like texture is very hard to do technically.”
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