Food tech startup Eat Just announced today it is going to build a commercial facility in Qatar to produce cell-based meats.
Made without slaughter and using far less land and water than is needed for livestock, the technology harnesses the power of computer science, food science, biopharma, and tissue engineering to produce meat and dairy products using animal cells, or genetically modified yeast.
The technology has already been given the stamp of approval by Singapore’s authorities, and in Israel the country’s leaders have made clear they want to become a powerhouse in alternative meat. According to some reports the burgeoning sector could be worth $25 billion by 2030.
California’s Eat Just has attracted more than $650 million in funding since its founding in 2011, and secured $200 million in fresh funding earlier this year, with the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA), the sovereign wealth fund of the State of Qatar, leading the way. In 2020 it became the first company to gain regulatory approval, in Singapore, to sell its chicken – part of its GOOD Meat brand – created directly from animal cells.
The news it is now expanding its commercial operations into Qatar, a facility that will be bigger than its current plant in Singapore, was welcomed by Good Food Institute founder and president, Bruce Friedrich.
“The Middle East has transformed into a nerve centre for cultivated meat innovation and has showcased impressive global leadership in building the future of food. The creation of this cultivated meat hub underlines the welcoming ecosystem the region has created for alternative protein innovation,” he said. “The world needs to follow the lead of Singapore, Israel, and now Qatar or risk being left behind. Nothing is more important for the climate than a transformation in protein production. We need more public and private sector investment to propel this industry forward and empower the next generation of innovators.”
Where next for CellAg?
Penn State researchers recently explored what the future of cell based agriculture might look like. They say the innovation will either provide food alternatives that offer a positive alternative, or they will trigger even greater socioeconomic inequalities.
Lead author of the Penn State study, Robert Chiles, assistant professor of rural sociology, College of Agricultural Sciences, pointed to the possibility that gains might be minimal if large companies are the only ones in a position to benefit, and he called on policy makers to take action.
“Government investments in publicly accessible digital infrastructures could help to facilitate a more just transition, as could public policies that protect workers’ rights and consumer privacy,” Chiles said. “Stakeholders who are concerned about the justice and equity implications of cellular agriculture may ultimately find more success by engaging with how these technologies are being developed rather than avoiding them or trying to eradicate them.”
In a recent Inside Ideas podcast, Marc Buckley spoke with Ahmed Khan, the co-founder and member of the board of directors of Cellular Agriculture Canada, a non-profit organisation advancing and promoting the cellular agriculture industry in Canada.
Explaining the why of cellular agriculture, the founder and editor of CellAgri, told Marc: “From studies done in the past – if you explain to the public the ‘why’ – from the environmental and sustainability aspects: that this requires less resources than conventional animal agriculture for the same products, as well as the potential public health implications of the clean and sterile environment of using cells directly, people can understand why. It’s all about that communication, and radical transparency to make sure that people understand their food system. Context is everything and with food it matters so much more.”
For more on Ahmed’s insight on the sector, catch up with the full podcast.