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Bill Gates and Richard Branson Are Investing in This Clean Meat Startup

Aug 23, 2017

Alternative or "clean" meat startup Memphis Meats announced Wednesday morning that it has completed a $17 million Series A fundraising round. The company has now raised $22 million to date.

The round was led by venture capital firm DFJ. Cargill, Bill Gates, and Richard Branson also invested, as did European venture capital fund Atomico, New Crop Capital, SOSV, Fifty Years, KBW Ventures, Inevitable Ventures, Suzy Welch, Kyle Vogt, and Kimbal Musk. Several research institutions also joined the round.

Memphis Meats has yet to commercialize a product but has produced beef, chicken, and duck from animal cells. The company grows meat in tanks by feeding oxygen, sugar, and other nutrients to living animal cells.

Meatball made from beef grown with stem cells. Photograph courtesy of Memphis Meats 

In addition to the bold-faced names who have lent their support and dollars to the company, the round was significant for its inclusion of Cargill. While other parts of the food industry, such as dairy, have resisted the mainstreaming of animal product alternatives like almond milk, the move by Cargill shows the meat sector may be taking a different approach. Tyson, for example, has also invested in the sector, backing plant-based meat company Beyond Meat.

“We are committed to growing our traditional protein business and investing in innovative new proteins to ultimately provide a complete basket of goods to our customers,” said Sonya McCullum Roberts, president of growth ventures for Cargill Protein, in a statement. "Memphis Meats has the potential to provide our customers and consumers with expanded protein choices and is aligned with our mission to nourish the world in a safe, responsible and sustainable way."

San Francisco Bay-area based Memphis Meats is part of a growing cohort of well-funded companies that are on a quest to make meat without animals. The startups and their investors are motivated by consumer concerns about animal welfare, health, and the environmental footprint of meat. Memphis Meats has said its process uses about 1% of the land and 10% of the water needed for conventional animal agriculture.

While some of the companies in the space —such as Memphis Meats — are trying to replicate meat cells, others have pursued a path to replicate the taste of meat with plants. These plant-based alternatives, such as Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat, have also garnered significant interest from the investment community. Bill Gates, for example, has also invested Impossible Foods.

Memphis Meats plans to use the funds for product development, to speed up its scaling, and for staffing. Right now, one of the significant hurdles to commercialization is cost of production—something the company said it would also put the funds toward.

This story has been updated to indicate that DFJ led the round.

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