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Food Tech

The Startup Turning Tobacco Into Cultivated Meat

September 23, 2023
x min read

Israel based startup BioBetter has a bold idea: turn tobacco plant leaves into cultivated meat.

The big idea:

  • BioBetter grows and harvests tobacco plants which are able to produce specific compounds, proteins and growth factors in a process called molecular farming
  • Some of these growth factors such as fibroblast growth factor are the critical compounds for producing cultivated meat at scale
  • Currently, many of the growth factors for cultivated meat that enable the tissue structuring or scaffolding are very expensive and an obstacle for startups
  • BioBetter is aiming to to turn tobacco plants into a reliable input of cultivated meat production at scale

Why it matters:

  • Cultivated meat is currently highly dependant upon proteins, serums and growth factors in order to be able to be produced in a bioreactor
  • Growth factors for cultivated meat are difficult to produce, very expensive and one of the most challenging problems for cell cultivated startups to solve
  • If BioBetter is successfully able to validate and scale their concept, they could unlock enormous value for cellular agriculture as a whole by lowering the cost of production

Going deeper:

  • BioBetter has just opened their first pilot plant which they believe is capable of producing 100KG per year of the growth factor necessary for cultivated meat
  • Surprisingly, a key ingredient for cultivated meat is actually insulin, which is produced naturally via tobacco leaves
  • BioBetter believes they can pull the cost of insulin as a growth medium down to just a dollar per gram, which represents a 100x cost savings compared to prices today
  • Being able to achieve price parity has been a long standing concern for the cultivated meat space, and there is yet to be enough data to know exactly what areas innovation can unlock significant value and cost savings in for startups

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