Food Tech

Cultivated meat company Upside Food just bought lab-grown lobster startup

Cell-cultured meat products may not yet be for sale in the US, but the companies that make them are.
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Upside Foods

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Cell-cultured meat products may not yet be for sale yet in the US, but the companies that make lab-grown meats are.

Upside Food, one of the largest US–based cultivated-meat companies, just bought Cultured Decadence, a startup focused on cell-cultured crustaceans. The deal terms were undisclosed, but Cultured Decadence raised a $1.6 million pre-seed round in April 2021.

So far, lab-grown meat has only received regulatory approval for commercial sale in Singapore, but several companies are working hard to perfect products—and production processes—so they can be first to market when, or if, more regulators give the green light.

  • McKinsey predicts lab-grown meat will be a $25 billion industry by 2030, and make up about 0.5% of the world’s meat supply.
  • Investors have put almost $2.5 billion into the space over the last two years, per Crunchbase data—for context, VCs spent $978 billion over that same time period.

Lab-grown langoustines?

Cultured Decadence was founded in 2020 and has said it plans to have a prototype ready in 2022. Upside intends to use the company’s cell-culture and tissue-engineering tech to fuel its seafood efforts, which have been less of an emphasis for the company so far.

How it works: Using lobster as an example, first Cultured Decadence takes small tissue samples from wild lobsters, then it isolates individual lobster cells from the sample, which are used to grow lobster meat in cell-culturing media. Et voilà, you have a lump of lobster meat.

Last November, Upside used cash from a $186 million funding round raised in 2020 to open a 53,000-square-foot production facility in Emeryville, California. The company claims the facility can currently produce over 50,000 pounds of meat a year, and scale up to 400,000 pounds per year over time.

  • That’s a lot of production capacity compared to most other cultivated-meat companies, which are generally still focused on R&D, but a little compared to traditional meat production.
  • Americans eat ~27.5 billion pounds of beef alone every year.

Zoom out: There are a number of companies playing in the lab-grown seafood space, including Wildtype, a US–based startup that says it opened the world’s first cultured seafood production plant last June. Wildtype claims the facility can produce ~50,000 pounds of cell-cultured fish per year, and scale up to 200,000 in the coming years.

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