Planted meat, grown with bioreactor instead of diversity, is likely to be one of the major dietary trends in a decade. But it depends on the technology used to breed yeast cells and bacteria, not animal cells – and Unicorn Biotechnologies it wants to replace this with new equipment created with a lot of food production in mind. It’s just filed for $ 3.2M to replace the bioreactor prototype of a commercial product.
While we have heard of new meat-growing companies and investment circles with amazing returns (this happened while I was writing this!), There are fundamental questions about whether this growing meat industry can measure. The simple fact is that animals, such as cows, are raised in large, often empty or grassy areas; Every gram of processed meat goes through an expensive and complex machine that may not have been originally designed to do this stuff.
“Most biomanufacturing systems are designed and optimized for the production of bacteria (enzymes) or yeast (breing beer), or focus on the production of animal cells (vaccines), not the animal cells themselves,” said co-founder and manager. Unicorn Bio, Jack Reid. “The use of this legacy of processed meat requires the regeneration of cells. Our basic approach and control is that it is actually easier, and ultimately better, to design new mechanical methods for growth retardation. cells, rather than trying to incorporate these cells into existing engineering systems. “
Of course it is not like these big money companies are buying things off the shelf. But the industry is moving fast, and critics point out that even the most promising numbers are small compared to the traditional meat industry. If they want to change the world, they will need to change more than 1% beef.
Unicorn wants to replace that with an automated and structured structure with the beginner in mind.
“Today, one of the biggest challenges in biological production is the development of livelihoods. It can take years – or even decades – to scale from bioprocess to large-scale bioreactors (imagine metal tanks the size of a small house), Reid said. The Unicorn architecture uses many smaller modes that work in parallel; Small volumes are easy to control, as well as easy to add or subtract to meet demand or replace others.
Reid also claims a high level of automation for its machines – which, obviously, are still in the model stage. But bioreactors have only recently been found in biotechnology laboratories and pharmaceutical laboratories, which are not specifically designed for simple operations and modifications.
“We are creating a system that runs automatically end-to-end. To work, you do not need a PhD, you just need to ‘connect’ your initial subjects, choose the product you are developing and let the system take care of the rest , “he said. While there is certainly a little more, the system will use sensor-built, machine learning, and industrial automation technology to this end. Some of these can already be found in the new creative start-up of other processed meat, but it is a fast-moving part.
Ultimately Unicorn does not want to make meat itself but it works as efficiently as others in the industry.
Although the potential for cultivated meat is huge (to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, animal harm and to increase food security in our rapidly changing climate), this will only be realized if advanced technology They are ready for all the players who founded this stadium, ”said Reid.
If the company has acquired a large cell line or growth process but is not an expert in bioreactor engineering or nutrient flow, they may be able to set up Unicorn devices when they upgrade instead of restoring technology at another time.
Reid disagreed with some of the most outspoken critics of the potential of cultivated meat, but said it was true that today’s technology (that is, yesterday’s) did not make it possible for us to hit the volume necessary to make it. moral and environmental tears. basic issues for slaughtering animals. Creativity is necessary to make even the slightest impact.
The $ 3.2M seed cycle should help move Unicorn forward; led by Acequia Capital, with the participation of SOSV, Marinya Capital, Alumni Ventures, C3, CULT Food Science and others. They have already spent some on rent, and are looking to bring proof of a concept size machine capable of producing cell kilograms by the end of the year. Experimental projects in collaboration with partners may begin until then, or early 2023.
“While much work remains to be done,” Reid said, “we remain in control that continuous innovation in the intersection of biology, engineering and lifestyle automation will continue to open up tangible technologies to help the ecosystem to reach its full potential. “