Jim Mellon Invokes ‘Moo’s Law’ for CellAg Meat
Jim Mellon is a British investor and entrepreneur. His latest book, Moo’s Law: An Investor’s Guide to the New Agrarian Revolution, is available via Harriman House and Amazon.
The latest book by British tech investor Jim Mellon, Moo’s Law, explains why and how cultured meat technology will transform farming and revolutionize our food supply on a global level. In an interview with Supertrends, he discusses the growth and future prospects of cellular agriculture.
The title of Jim Mellon’s new book on the cultured meat business – “Moo’s Law” – really says it all: He wrote his “investor’s guide to the new agrarian revolution” because he believes that the trajectory of pricing in this industry will resemble what has happened to semiconductors in the past decades. The chairman of the Burnbrae private asset management group and largest shareholder of Agronomics, a UK-listed investment company specializing in modern foods and biotech, is convinced that industrialized farming is unsustainable, and that greener, cleaner meat alternatives free from antibiotics and many hormones are required. “The COVID-19 pandemic is accelerating our awareness of the threat of zoonotic transmission, and the issue of antibiotic resistance in bacteria caused by intensive farming is gaining greater traction,” he said in an interview with Supertrends.
So what’s holding back the cellular agriculture revolution? While Mellon sees a few obstacles, he is confident they will soon be resolved. For example, the growth factors used to cultivate animal muscle cells are extremely expensive (on the order of millions of US$ per gram), since the biotech and pharmaceutical industries only require minuscule units. Here, according to Mellon, “it’s only a matter of scale until the price comes down.” The same applies to bioreactors, which are needed at greater capacities and lower cost than those currently available on the market. Again, Mellon is convinced that the prices will eventually come down, with companies like Sartorius already developing 20,000- to 100,000-liter bioreactors.
Stamp of approval?
As far as regulatory issues are concerned, the decision in December 2020 by the Singapore Food Agency (SFA) to approve cultured chicken for human consumption could pave the way for more endorsements by government bodies and food safety authorities, Mellon believes, with Israel possibly on track to follow suit. Seafood might be next, he says: “We anticipate that BlueNalu could get FDA approval for its mahi mahi seafood by the end of the year.” While the traditional meat industry has a much stronger lobby than seafood both in the US and Europe, he points out that trying to ban competitors didn’t work for the dairy industry, either, with alternative milks now holding more than 20 percent of the market, up from half a percent ten years ago. “I think the tipping point will be much faster than you would expect,” says Mellon.
In Europe and the US, he thinks it will be about 18 months before the first cultured meat companies get the green light from regulators. “Some more dynamic jurisdictions in regions that are dependent on food imports, such as Singapore, possibly Hong Kong, and in the Middle East will be accelerants of the approval process. While there are always glitches along the way in any industry, the general feeling among my colleagues and myself is that we will have mass adoption of cellular agriculture products within five years,” Mellon predicts. This might happen even earlier for materials that require no regulatory approval, such as cultured leather or textiles.
Studies show that younger cohorts of potential customers better understand the environmental and animal cruelty issues associated with intensive animal farming than older consumers. “The expectation is that in the US, about 70 percent of consumers would give cell ag meat and seafood a try. But we know it’s ultimately about cost, convenience, taste, and texture,” Mellon believes. Despite the benefits to the environment and human health, the price tag in supermarkets will still determine whether consumers are willing to adopt cultured meat en masse.
Will we see any IPOs by cultured meat companies in the near term, considering that it might take some time before they start delivering the kinds of profits that cause excitement in the market? “I don’t see any indication that any of these cell ag companies want to go public in the very near term, but we’ll see significant rollout of their products, and therefore some revenue at least. There’s more than enough venture capital available to satisfy their needs at the moment,” says Mellon, who thinks that the first company might go public in about three years’ time. “It’s a technology that is disruptive at every level. That’s why big food companies are already investing in this sector to a limited extent,” he notes. “They know which side their bread is buttered on.”
On 4 March 2021, Jim Mellon will be participating alongside scientists, CEOs, and entrepreneurs in an online webinar hosted by Master Investor, on the opportunities of the cellular agriculture industry. To sign up, visit http://bit.ly/3pNmHbj. In the meantime, you could also watch the book launch of Moo’s Law featuring Mark Post and Lou Cooperhouse.
© 2021 Supertrends
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