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Chinese cellular pork producer Joes Future raises $11m Series A funding

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Chinese cultivated meat startup Joes Future Food has raised ¥70 million ($10.9 million) in funding, it said in an announcement on social media platform WeChat.

Local firms Hillhouse Capital, Matrix Partners China, Crystal Stream Capital, and Nanjing Innovation Capital Group were among the investors to take part in the Series A round.

Joes Future said it will use the funding to grow its domestic and international presence, improve its technology, reduce production costs, and build a pilot production line for its cultivated meat.

Co-founder and CEO Ding Shijie said: “The company will further strengthen its core team, increase investment in R&D, and accelerate commercialization to get cell-cultured meat onto the tables of Chinese consumers, providing them with healthier, safer, and lower-carbon meat products.”

The Nanjing-based startup is developing materials and methods for cell-cultured meat production, with an initial focus on China’s favorite animal-derived protein: pork.

It was spun out of Nanjing Agricultural University in late 2019, and claims to be the first company in China to have successfully produced cell-cultured meat.

“The team has carried out research on myoblast induction [muscular tissue formation] and differentiation of stem cells since 2009. [They’ve] created a new method for cryopreservation of stem cell cultures in vitro, developed serum-free culture media, and invented a cultured meat production scaffold containing a micro-pillar array,” said Hillhouse Capital founding partner Li Liang.

These innovations have allowed Joes Future to “break the technological monopoly of foreign countries” in cell-cultured meat production, he claimed.

“By developing serum-free medium with clear chemical composition, Joes Future will support cost reduction and large-scale mass production of cell-cultured meat in the future […] Technological breakthroughs in this field are of great future significance for carbon neutralization in China and the wider world.”

Joes Future previously raised ¥20 million ($3.13 million) in pre-seed funding from Matrix Partners China.

To date, few Chinese cultivated meat startups have raised venture funding. Among the others to have done so is Hong Kong’s Avant, which is producing cell-cultured seafood; however, it has relocated much of its operations to Singapore, which became the first country in the world to approve a cultivated meat product for sale to the public last year.

While China’s cultivated meat startup landscape remains several steps behind the likes of Singapore and the US,  researchers, investors, and — increasingly — politicians in the country are paying more attention to the field.

If the technology becomes suitably scalable and economically viable, it could prove a crucial element in satisfying China’s ever-growing demand for protein.

Pork, in particular, has been subject to supply shocks and wild price fluctuations in China amid the Covid-19 pandemic and an ongoing African swine fever crisis. At the same time, pig farming and pork processing contribute substantially to the country’s greenhouse gas emissions.



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