Today, California-based food technology startup Memphis Meats announced that it raised $161 million in a Series B funding round, the largest investment ever made in the burgeoning cell-based meat industry. The round was led by Asia-based firms SoftBank Group and Temasek, and included additional funding from animal agriculture giants Cargill and Tyson Foods. In 2017, Memphis Meats was the first cell-based meat company to close a Series A funding round, raising $17 million from a handful of major investors, including Virgin Group founder Richard Branson, billionaire Bill Gates, and entrepreneur Kimbal Musk—all of which contributed to the company’s current investment round. “I am proud to invest once again in Memphis Meats, the world’s leading cell-based meat company,” Branson said. “In the next few decades, I believe that cell-based meat will become a major part of our global meat supply. I cannot wait for that day.”
Founded by cardiologist Uma Valeti, Memphis Meats uses a small amount of animal cells to grow meat inside bioreactors without the necessity of fetal bovine serum—a nutrient-rich growth medium derived from the blood of unborn calves used by some cell-based meat companies. Memphis Meats will use the new funding to increase its team from 45 to 135 employees, and to build a pilot facility in an undisclosed location to begin scaling the production of its cell-based meat—a step that will bring it much closer to launching its flagship products to consumers. The pilot plant will also be crucial in demonstrating the safety of cell-based (also known as “cultured,” “cultivated,” and “lab-grown”) meat and Valeti plans to work with the United States Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration to establish a pathway to regulatory approval with the mission of creating a new modern system that is less detrimental to the environment, animal welfare, and human health.
Prior to Memphis Meats’ Series B round, the largest single investment in the cell-based industry was a $20 million Series A round raised by cell-based seafood startup BlueNalu in September 2019. “This investment round is a monumental milestone in the progress of the field,” Bruce Friedrich, executive director of advocacy group The Good Food Institute, said. “This is the biggest investment of its kind for cultivated meat and will help Memphis Meats move toward the scale they will need to get their products to market.”