Farm Raised Or Lab Grown? How IntegriCulture Is Forging The Future Of Food
Our food supply and society itself may be transformed by this company's futuristic technology platform.
Happy Tuesday Market Shakers. Over the last few weeks, we have set out to answer an important question: what are alt-proteins and how are they made? Exploring this promising future market has necessitated taking a break from focusing specifically on Japan. Today, that changes!
We sat down to talk to Dr. Yuki Hanyu, Co-Founder and CEO of Japan’s pioneering cellular agriculture company, IntegriCulture Inc. (hereafter, IntegriCulture). In today’s interview, we really run the gamut of fascinating topics, from how cell-cultured proteins are made to IntegriCulture’s business strategy, their future plans, their surprising origins, and finally, the latest on regulations in Japan. Let’s dive in.
Last Chance to register for The Big Idea Food Competition Japan edition!
On Wednesday, October 5th, 2022, Big Idea Ventures in collaboration GourmetPro and Sustainable Foods Asia will hold the Japan edition of the Big Idea Ventures Food Competition (BIFC).
This free online event will be held in Japanese. Participate to uncover the next-gen F&B innovations coming from Japan, and hear insights from leaders from across Japan’s F&B industry.
About BIFC Japan
The online event brings together 5 of Japan’s top early-stage startups (pre-series A) to pitch their alt-protein, plant-based and fermentation-based products and innovations as part of Asia’s biggest startup competition. A panel of expert judges, including leaders from SIGMAXYZ, ITOCHU Corporation, JETRO and Marui Group will share feedback to the panellists.
The winning startup will be invited to Singapore for the international finals of the Big Idea Food Competition Asia in April 2023. The winner of the international contest will receive $200,000 USD and a spot in Big Idea Ventures’ Cohort #8 accelerator program based in Singapore.
Why you should participate
The event is an opportunity for you to discover the next generation of innovators that will shape Japan’s F&B industry! Alongside this, you will also hear keynotes and commentary from thought leaders in Japan:
The online event kicks off at 10:30 JST on October 5th. Register for free below to meet the future of Japan’s food system and be part of Asia’s biggest startup competition:
Meet Dr. Yuki Hanyu
Dr. Yuki Hanyu and his team at IntegriCulture are building the architecture we need to make lab-grown animal protein a reality. Inspired by science fiction, his dream is to realise the futuristic world of his favourite sci-fi movies, manga and anime.
His bold vision is matched by serious credentials. A PhD graduate from Oxford university, he founded a community dedicated to achieving DIY cell culture at home, which he spun off into IntegriCulture Inc. Speaking to him, he is sharply intelligent, wise, and kind. In short, the kind of person you would trust with the keys to the future of our protein supply.
The story of how he came to be pioneering the field of cellular agriculture is worth sharing. It all started:
From a Sci-Fi dream…
Hanyu began making his dream a reality in 2014 when he founded the Shojinmeat Project.
The project is about creating a DIY open source cell-cultured meat movement. I built a passionate community that wanted to imagine and build the future. Our activities included streaming cultivating meat in our own homes and discussing a world where cultivated meat was commercially available.
Hanyu and the Shojinmeat community projected and debated what a world with cultivated meat would look like. From companies producing cultivated meat to the regulatory bodies overseeing safe and ethical application, and even the “artists” crafting new products with cells.
Hanyu’s early theoretical exploration within the Shojinmeat community proved powerful visioneering. One year after its founding, he decided to make the Shojinmeat vision a reality and founded IntegriCulture Inc.
We began with a sci-fi dream, then after initial visioneering, established IntegriCulture to make it a reality. What I want to express is that the idea of making cellular agriculture democratic and open to all is part of IntegriCulture’s DNA.
…To cultivating the future of food
In line with Hanyu’s vision to make cultivating animal proteins democratic and cost-effective, IntegriCulture’s focus is on building the infrastructure to support cell culture. They are developing the CulNet system, an end-to-end cell-cultured protein production system.
Using CulNet system, companies and innovators around the world will be able to realize the production of animal-free animal products, including meat, cosmetics, and fashion products.
In essence, the CulNet system converts raw products like vitamins, amino acids, sugar and minerals into cells, which could be meat, it could be fur, it could be organs, even cosmetics… anything made of cells.
To date, investors have been quick to back IntegriCulture’s efforts. So far IntegriCulture have received $16.4 million, and they are currently raising series B. With their series A investment, they developed the first commercial-scale CulNet system for creating cell-culture serum.
Like what you’re reading?
While Hanyu is still some way off from achieving the end-to-end CulNet system, IntegriCulture have a clear roadmap to do so. Their current strategy splits their business into two arms. The first is their CulNet pipeline focused on developing commercial scale infrastructure to achieve affordable cell-culture serum - which until now has been prohibitively expensive. The second arm engages the cellular agriculture industry as a consortium to accelerate this technology's widespread progress and commercialization.
The CulNet Pipeline
So what exactly is the CulNet Pipeline, and why does it have huge potential to bring the cost of cellular agriculture down to reasonable levels?
Our CulNet system focuses on creating cell-culture serum without the need for expensive growth factors. Right now, Foetal Bovine Serum (FBS) is an expensive growth factor being used in cellular agriculture to trigger cell multiplication. Our system eliminates the need for this.
The process of cultivating animal cells requires several steps. Once you harvest a target cell from an animal, you feed the cell in a nutrient-rich basal media. To date, growth factors like FBS have been the most important ingredient in the media to trigger cell growth. They have also been the most expensive and ethically questionable - FBS is extracted from the carcasses of animals.
Inspire someone today:
Instead, the CulNet system uses a network of bioreactors containing only basal media and a combination of feeder cells (cells extracted from animal organs). The CulNet bioreactors feed into each other and into the main bioreactor that holds the animal cells targeted for multiplication. By combining feeder cells in this way, they secrete suitable serum components to trigger and maintain cell growth in the main bioreactor. This CulNet system can be plugged into the main bioreactor to feed the target cells within it to produce cultivated animal proteins.
Imagine if you want to create salmon meat. You would place salmon meat cells in the main bioreactor. Our CulNet system, consisting of three feeder bioreactors is plugged into the main reactor. The CulNet bioreactors each contain different feeder cells, salmon liver and pancreatic cells for example, in basal medium. Activating the feeder cells causes them to secrete the components needed to trigger cell growth in the main reactor, where the salmon cells multiply.
By tweaking the feeder cells in the CulNet system, it can create growth media for all kinds of different animal proteins. The same hardware can be used to multiply different species of cells, for example, salmon and chicken. According to IntegriCulture, the efficiency of their system means cells can be cultured at 1/60th of the current cost.
The system is designed to be plugged into existing production processes and used on-site by cellular agriculture companies. It is currently capable of producing a litre of cell-culture serum, but will soon be able to produce 10 to 100 times that amount.
We are currently seeking partners who want to test our CulNet system as part of their production processes.
The CulNet Consortium
The CulNet Consortium is the second arm of IntegriCulture’s business. It is a joint development scheme with partners in all sectors of the cultivated protein industry. Through these partnerships, IntegriCulture aims to realize an end-to-end cellular agriculture system.
With partners they are developing industry-wide standards for the following core cell culture processes:
Standardized culture medium: the right recipe of feeder cells to trigger multiplication of target cells across the whole animal spectrum
CulNet System hardware: the hardware to use CulNet for mass and smaller-scale production
Product bioreactors: The main bioreactors where target animal cells are multiplied to form products, such as chicken breast
Cell product processing: standardized processing, tracing and quality assurance protocols for cell-ag products
Cell sources: The extraction process for target cells from livestock and fish
We are working with startups and major corporations to accelerate cellular agriculture. We have partners who are designing industrial-scale bioreactors for cell culture for human consumption for example.
For Starters: Foie Gras
Having made leaps and bounds in reducing the cost of cell-culture serum,
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial
Subscribe to Market Shake by GourmetPro to keep reading this post and get 7 days of free access to the full post archives.