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Bill Gates-backed lab-grown meat startup Upside Foods becomes a unicorn, nets $400M Series C

UPSIDE Foods Chicken Burger
Image credits: UPSIDE Foods

In what’s being recognised as the largest funding round in the cultivated meat industry to date, UPSIDE Foods (formerly Memphis Meats) has just concluded its Series C raising $400M at over $1B valuation. This investment highlights the sustained interest in the sustainable food production industry, by investors.

This Series C round was co-led by Temasek, a global investment company headquartered in Singapore alongside the Abu Dhabi Growth Fund (ADG), a new investor. Other new investors include Baillie Gifford, John Doerr, Givaudan, SALT fund, and Synthesis Capital. They are joined by top names in tech and investing such as Bill Gates, Cargill, SoftBank Vision Fund 2, Cercano Management, CPT Capital, Dentsu Ventures, Singapore-based global investor EDBI, Kimbal and Christiana Musk, Norwest Venture Partners, SOSV’s Indie Bio, and Tyson Foods.

“Our approach is to identify and hold transformational growth companies with the potential to disrupt industries,” remarked Chris Evdaimon from Baillie Gifford’s Private Companies Team. “Cultivated meat is well on its way to becoming a large-scale industry. And UPSIDE Foods is a frontrunner in developing ways to both make and market the product. We believe it’s a great long-term investment that will help the environment, animal welfare and the food system as a whole.”

What the funding will do

UPSIDE Foods will utilise the funds raised to build its commercial production facility with a planned annual capacity of tens of millions of pounds of cultivated meat products. This facility will have the ability to produce any species of meat, both ground and whole cut formats, with the initial focus on chicken. Furthermore, the funds will assist in building a robust supply chain for critical cell feed components in a bid to reduce costs and enable greater scale.

Additionally, UPSIDE Foods will further educate its consumers, invest in R&D for the next generation of cultivated meat products, and continue to grow its 170+ personnel team. UPSIDE Foods CEO and Founder Dr Uma Valeti commented, “UPSIDE has reached a historic inflexion point, moving from R&D to commercialization.”

“Our team at UPSIDE continues to overcome seemingly insurmountable challenges in our mission to make our favourite food a force for good. Working in partnership with our world-class coalition of investors, we’re excited to bring delicious, sustainable and humane meat to the consumers around the world,” added Dr Uma Valeti.

The boom in sustainable meat

The global production of food has been responsible for a third of all the planet’s heating. The raising and culling of animals for food has proven to be far worse for the climate than growing and processing fruits and vegetables. Studies have shown that beef production has a particularly outsized impact on the environment. The use of cows, pigs and other animals for food, as well as livestock feed, accounts for 57% of all food production emissions.

Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of this justified by the skyrocketing demand for sustainably grown food and meat. Owing to the general populous’ shift to preferring sustainably produced food, especially meat, a keen interest in the sector by investors has been the consequence. The values of companies in this space such as Tyson Foods and UPSIDE Foods have been steadily growing in recent years.

The developer of meat from animal cells

The California-based company UPSIDE Foods has developed a way to grow real meat, poultry and seafood directly from animal cells, without needing to raise and slaughter animals. Its products are not vegetarian, plant-based or meat alternatives, but instead are real meat, made without the animal.

Founded in 2015 by Nicholas Genovese and Uma Valeti as the world’s first cultivated meat company in 2015, UPSIDE Foods has achieved many industry-defining milestones, including being the first sustainable food company to produce multiple species of meat (beef, chicken and duck). UPSIDE Foods believes that people shouldn’t have to pick between the foods they love and a thriving planet. Its team is working hard to build a better food system where everybody has access to delicious, humane, and sustainable meat.

Since its Series B in early 2020, the company has been busy driving product innovation, acquiring new partnerships and scaling. In the last year alone, it rebranded from Memphis Meats to UPSIDE Foods, welcomed the Whole Foods CEO John Mackey as an investor, announced chicken as its initial product, partnered with three-Michelin starred chef Dominique Crenn, developed cell feed that’s completely free of animal components and acquired cultivated seafood company Cultured Decadence. UPSIDE Foods also quite remarkably built and opened its Engineering, Production and Innovation Center (EPIC), the world’s most advanced production facility and innovation centre for cultivated meat. The company recently hosted its first public tour of EPIC as part of a broader effort to educate consumers about cultivated meat as well as UPSIDE Foods’ mission and production process.

UPSIDE Foods has won multiple industry awards, among them theNew York Times’ Good Tech Awards, FastCo’s Next Big Thing in Tech, and the Best and Brightest Companies to Work For in the US by the (NABR) National Association for Business Resources. The company has raised a total of $608M to date. UPSIDE Foods plans to be available to consumers in the U.S. later this year as it’s currently pending regulatory review.

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