Cargill invests in cultured meat start-up, continues animal nutrition focus

By Aerin Einstein-Curtis

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/300_librarians
© GettyImages/300_librarians

Related tags Cargill Protein

Animal feed, nutrition and production remain a focus for Cargill even as the company supports the development of cultured meat.

The Minnesota-based agri-giant announced that it was contributing in a series A investment round for cultured meat company, Aleph Farms, last week. The investment is intended to help the company move its product from the prototype stage to commercial production.

In 2018, Aleph showed it had the ability to grow steak from bovine cells using a 3D tissue engineering platform, Cargill said.

The investment is part of Cargill’s attempt to help address global protein demands, said Sonya Roberts, managing director of growth ventures and strategic pricing with Cargill Protein North America. “Meeting the protein needs of a growing global population sustainably will take all of us working together, both traditional and alternative protein producers,”​ she added.

“Our strategy for both food and feed is based on helping customers and consumers thrive in a world where demand for sustainable protein is rising,”​ she told FeedNavigator.

Global population growth is anticipated to increase protein needs by up to 70% in the next 30 years, Cargill said.

Supporting a cultured meat producer does not mean Cargill is reducing its research and work with animal-based protein development or production, said Roberts.

“We believe in the power of protein and are firmly committed to investment and growth in the traditional animal protein space,” ​she said. “We have and will continue to invest in animal agriculture as it is core to our business.”

Aleph Farms support

The Israel-based start-up, Aleph Farms, was co-founded by the Kitchen Hub and is considered the first company to be able to grow meat from cattle cells, according to company information. It raised $12M in the series A investment round.

Investors in the round included VisVires New Protein (VVNP), Cargill Protein and the Switzerland-based M-Industry, Aleph said. New supporters joined a team of existing investors including Strauss Group, Peregrine Ventures, CPT Capital, Jesselson investments, New Crop Capital and the Technion Investment Opportunity Fund.

The additional funding will help the company increase its development pace, Aleph said. The intention is to develop cultured meat bio-farm facilities.

Currently, the company uses a process based on the way that cows regenerate or build muscle tissue, the company said. The method isolated the cells involved in the development and established a way for them to generate muscle tissue outside of a cow.

Supporting protein production

Cargill has interest in examining innovations that could be used to support and feed the global population, including the development of both animal- and alternative-based proteins, said Roberts. “We can’t take anything off the table,”​ she added.

“Our investment agreement with Aleph Farms underscores our focus on taking an inclusive view to producing wholesome, sustainable protein to meet customer and consumer needs now and in the future,”​ she said.

Cargill anticipates that animal protein production will play a role in feeding the global population for the “long-term”​ added Jon Nash, president of Cargill Protein-North America.

In addition to the arrangement with Aleph, Cargill has made a series of investments in animal production, said Roberts.

“In the last four years we have acquired world-class feed, livestock, salmon and equine producers,” ​she said. “We’ve also invested in cutting-edge digital monitoring and feed additive companies alongside our investments in protein.”

Cargill investments in feed premix, poultry 

Earlier this year, Cargill announced a $20m investment in an animal feed premix and supplement facility in India​, along with the decision to sink $40m into a premix facility in China​. The company also opened a feed premix production facility in Jordan​ in April.

Previous to that, the agribusiness giant took steps to expand its global poultry business by buying Colombia-base, Campollo. That company was a noted producer of chicken and protein products in the region.

Cargill also expanded its poultry footprint in Europe with the acquisition of Konspol in Poland in September 2018. The acquisition included a feed mill, poultry processing facilities and broiler farms.

In 2017, the company bought the Brazilian cattle feed producer, Integral Animal Nutrition, along with the feed business of US-based Southern States Cooperative, Inc.

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