India is all launched to get a taste of cell-based or ‘clean’ meat as early as next year, with the Maharashtra government giving the state-funded Institute of Chemical Technology (ICT) a go-ahead to establish a cellular agriculture research center in the state.
ICT has joined hands with The Good Food Institute, a global non-profit organization engaged in promoting the plant- and cell-based meat sector by research and commercialization, to establish a lab facility in Mumbai by 2020.
The two entities are anticipated to sign an MoU to set up a ‘Centre of Excellence in Cellular Agriculture’, which will see the Mumbai laboratory coming up in the first phase, followed by a larger research facility at ICT’s Jalna campus by 2021. “This will be the world’s first dedicated center on cellular agriculture. This center will be first innovation, allowing Indian businesses a chance to create products using our research,” said Dr. Rekha Singhal, dean, research, consultancy, and resource mobilization, ICT Mumbai.
Both organizations will jointly aim at raising funds from philanthropists, charitable foundations and government institutions for the center. “It will include state-of-the-art facilities for cell culturing and endow research fellowships in the various technology areas of cellular agriculture, including cell culture media, cell line isolation, scaffolding, and bioreactor design,” said Varun Deshpande, MD, India, The Good Food Institute.
Cellular agriculture involves utilizing biotechnology to produce animal-based products in a controlled environment instead of breeding and slaughtering animals. Proponents of cell-based meat, which is made by cultivating a small sample of animal cells in a laboratory, claim that it does not differ from regular meat in taste or protein content. “The resulting product is 100% real meat, minus the antibiotics, E. coli, salmonella or animal waste,” Deshpande stated.
Moreover, those advocating cell-based meat claim that it can eliminate the adverse outcomes of conventional meat production eco-system – greenhouse gas emissions, antibiotic resistance, and environmental degradation. Globally, the conventional meat substitutes sector, which covers plant-based meat, has attracted interest and investments from billionaires Bill Gates and Richard Branson, besides actor Leonardo DiCaprio, among others. GFI projects the size of global meat substitutes market to grow to $5.96 billion by 2022.
While ICT will give its brand name, land at Jalna campus and academic resources for the research center, GFI will bring in the know-how and access to experts in the field of cellular agriculture technology. “Entrepreneurs will come into work in conjunction with the experts at the center of excellence to create their own products, which they will then go on to launch in the market,” Deshpande stated. The initial budget for the research center is expected to be over Rs 50 crore. “Indian companies focusing on cell-based meat can take a bite out of the rapidly growing Rs 20,000-crore Indian meat sector as well as the global industry, which is worth around a trillion dollars,” said Deshpande. As per the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA), India’s total meat exports, including poultry, exceeded Rs 20,500 crore during April-December 2018.