Food Tech

Upside Foods raises $400 million to build massive lab-grown meat plant

It’s the biggest-ever round for cultivated meat, which still can’t be sold in the US.
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Upside Foods

· 3 min read

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You may not be able to buy cultivated meat in the US yet—or anywhere outside of Singapore, for that matter—but that’s not stopping investors from pouring money into the space.

What’s new: Upside Foods, which recently opened the largest cultivated-meat plant in North America, just announced a $400 million Series C. It’s the biggest-ever funding round for a cultivated-meat company, and it officially makes Upside a unicorn.

  • Investors put over $2 billion into cultivated meat companies across 2020 and 2021, per Crunchbase data.
  • The previous titleholder in the space was Future Meat, which raised a $347 million Series B in December 2021.

Why it matters: Cultivated meat is a potential way to have our…meat…and eat it too—it could nearly zero out greenhouse-gas emissions from meat production, and potentially help eliminate factory farming. But it’s unclear if it can be produced at scale in a safe, appealing, and economically viable way—Upside will use its new funding to try and achieve those exact things.

The Series C was co-led by Singapore-based Temasek and Abu Dhabi Growth Fund, and included food giants like Tyson Foods.

The path to purchase

Upside wrote in its press release that its products will be available in the US later this year, “pending regulatory review,” and claimed regulatory approval is “on the horizon.”

  • In the US, the regulators in question are the FDA and the USDA.
  • FWIW, Upside previously predicted its products would be on US shelves in 2021, and lab-grown meat companies have repeatedly missed their predictions.

But even if regulatory approval comes through this year, cultivated meat has to clear several hurdles in order to scale.

Upside’s record-breaking round will help ease one challenge: cost. For context, Upside spent $50 million to build its recently unveiled facility, which it says can produce 50,000 pounds of food per year. It now plans to build another facility with an expected capacity of tens of millions of pounds, so…that’s where the new money is going, the company says. Upside told us the location is TBD, and that it expects construction to take at least one year.

  • But even once the facilities are built out, operating costs can be high.
  • While some research suggests cultivated meat can eventually become cost competitive with traditional meat, other research finds that without serious technological improvements, the economics border on impossible.

Big picture: “We’ve been de-risking it progressively for the last five and a half years, [but] there’s still more risk to investors and also to the field, which is, does this work at scale?” Upside Foods CEO and founder Uma Valeti told us in March. “And there is a chicken and egg problem there. Because unless you build it at scale, you can’t show it works.”

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