SCiFi Foods is currently working on the launch of the first ever burger made from a blend of cultivated meat and plant-based ingredients. In doing so, we’re bringing a world without factory farming out of imagination and into reality.
We love beef, and so does the rest of the world. Demand continues to grow worldwide every year, but the cattle industry hasn’t been able to keep up. Furthermore their efforts to expand have not been sustainable in any sense of the word. We believe cultivated beef is key to delivering high-quality, delicious protein to customers worldwide, in a way that simultaneously helps to keep deforestation, harmful methane emissions that contribute to climate change, and antibiotic resistance at bay.
Our Co-founder & CEO Joshua March came across the concept of growing meat outside the animal after reading a science fiction book, Player of Games (by Iain M. Banks). After reading that book, it became clear to Josh that cultivated beef was the answer to both the world’s growing demand for beef and its diminishing available cattle pasture (and the host of other problems associated with factory farming). He remained obsessed with the idea for 15 years, when he met our Co-founder & CTO Dr. Kasia Gora, a CalTech- and MIT-trained scientist and technologist with a proven track record in turning big ideas into real and scalable processes. Together they have developed the technology, science, and strategy to make their scifi dream a reality.
In terms of our process, SCiFi Foods is the only company that has built a proprietary, synbio, robotic cell line engineering platform which allows us to create hundreds of cell lines a month. Most other companies can only grow fewer than a dozen. Thanks to our platform that utilizes gene-editing tools like CRISPR, we are able to test hundreds of genetic edits each month to figure out how to shift cell behavior and get the best, scalable results.
Our innovative efforts have generated a number of industry firsts and technological breakthroughs. We are the first in the world to develop edible beef cells that grow in single-cell suspension, the biggest barrier to scaling cultivated meat, and we also developed beef cell lines that can grow without the need for Fetal Bovine Serum, another major hurdle. These allow SCiFi Foods to greatly reduce costs while scaling through existing cell culture infrastructure. This level of tenacity, deep scientific knowledge, and commitment to research allows us to move faster and more cost-efficiently than competitors.
In terms of flavor, our burgers are essentially indistinguishable from traditional beef burgers. This is because our cultivated beef cells bring in the real beef fats and proteins that create the flavor, aroma, and experience of meat—because it is real meat, just produced in a different way.
Finally, SCiFi is led by a Co-founding team that is uniquely qualified to revolutionize this space: CEO Joshua March, a proven leader with two prior exits, and CTO Dr. Kasia Gora, a CalTech- and MIT-trained scientist who was instrumental in building the synbio platform at Zymergen. They're a powerful duo who divide, conquer, and excite their team about making the future the present. To date, SCiFi has raised more than $29M from prestigious investors including a16z, Valor Siren Ventures, Entree Capital, and a host of impressive angels—from Coldplay to pro athletes and seasoned business leaders.
SCiFi is based in San Leandro, California, an area with a rich history of light industry. It benefits from convenient transit connections to San Francisco, East Bay areas like Berkeley and Emeryville, and the Peninsula. This gives us great access to talented employees from all across the Bay Area. Additionally, there is more industrial space available, giving space to expand—which is why we’re able to build our pilot plant here, right next to our existing R&D facility.
SCiFi burgers are made of real cultivated beef cells plus plant-based ingredients, primarily soy protein. By incorporating beef cells into our burgers, we’ve achieved a level of flavor, juiciness, and smell that’s unmatched. *A complete list of ingredients will be available closer to launch.*
TLDR: it’s real beef, with the same nutrients and taste we’re used to, except it’s grown without a cow. You may have heard it called clean meat, cultured meat, or lab-grown meat, but whatever you call it, it involves feeding cells with nutrients so they can grow and multiply enough that they can then be used as ground meat. We started by humanely collecting beef cells—the only part of our process that involved an animal—and then we used CRISPR technology to tweak their genes, allowing them to keep growing in large bioreactors. Thanks to our synthetic biology platform, we can generate hundreds of cell lines each month, allowing us to continuously experiment with and refine our process to produce desired results as quickly as possible.
In order to develop animal cell lines that are happy growing in a bioreactor (instead of an animal), the cell lines have to go through some kind of genetic changes. While it’s possible to rely on random mutations and genetic rearrangements to adapt animal cells to the growth conditions in a bioreactor, it is faster and more reliable to use technologies like CRISPR which allow us to make very targeted, tiny genetic edits to shift cell behavior exactly how we need.
Nope! We only had to go to the farm once to get cells from a very happy cow at a small little farm in Ohio. We are able to keep growing an almost unlimited amount of cells from this original biopsy, so we don’t have to keep going back to the cow.
It’s currently just too expensive and technologically challenging to create a burger from 100% cultivated meat. Luckily though, by combining cultivated beef cells with high-quality plant-based ingredients, we can create a flavor that’s indistinguishable from a standard beef burger, something that cannot be done with plant-based ingredients alone.
It’s true that the first 100% cultivated beef burger carried a $330,000 price tag, but that was a decade ago. The technology and execution strategy have come a long way since then. For starters, the first products to market (including ours) will not be 100% cultivated meat. Rather, they’ll be a mix of cultivated meat and plant-based ingredients. This alone drastically reduces the cost. Additionally, our unique approach utilizes synthetic biology and CRISPR to produce cell lines at scale. This approach gives us the groundbreaking ability to grow cells in suspension, which means we're already quite close to a market-viable price. Eventually, at commercial scale, we will be able to achieve our ultimate goal—a $1 burger.
Actually, it's not as energy intensive as you might think. For starters, because we’re only using cells and not the whole animal, our process uses substantially less energy, less land, less water, and is much less polluting than traditional cattle cultivation. Plus, our R&D and pilot facilities are powered with 100% renewable energy.
In fact, we even did a life cycle analysis with Ohio State University researchers to compare our burger to a traditional burger. The results were pretty impressive.
They found that compared to a traditional burger, the SCiFi burger:
- Required 39% less energy
- Had 90% less influence on land use
- Needed 96% less water use
- And generated 87% less greenhouse gas emissions
The study also showed these numbers could be further improved upon if renewable energy is used exclusively to power our operations (which we are planning). SCiFi is very serious about responsible environmental stewardship, and we felt this study was an important step in transparency and authenticity as we continue our path to production.
Great question. While we did commission the study and make a donation to OSU, we went a step further in the name of due diligence and credibility: we submitted the study for peer review by academic journals. This was a difficult and lengthy—but to us, very necessary—process. Journals can reject any study that they do not consider valid. In November of 2022, it was accepted and published by Sustainability, an open sourced academic journal, further validating our findings.
Yes! Our products are 100% safe to eat. They are made in an ultra clean environment using the same ingredients that already exist in many of the foods you eat today. We use synthetic biology in a way that does not add foreign DNA to food, but instead makes tiny "edits" to genes, so we can get our cells to grow in the most efficient and sterile way possible. Factory farms, by contrast, raise animals in close quarters and pump them full of antibiotics. Because we don’t need to do that, our process will minimize the spread of infectious and antibiotic-resistant diseases that start in these animals and spread to humans.
Regulations and other safety measures for our industry have already been developing for years, and the FDA has recently approved the first cultivated meat products in the US. We're working directly with them to bring our products to market in 2024.
Like any food product, if you have food sensitivities or food allergies, you should consult the ingredient list, which will be clearly printed in full on our packaging when we launch.
Immune systems are essential for cows, but not for cell culture. We’re engineering robust cell lines that grow in closed loop systems, which significantly minimize contamination risk. We use bioreactors to cultivate our cells, which are sterile throughout the cell line process, keeping our cells healthy and ensuring we have an incredibly safe product at the end of the day.
The future is coming faster than you may think! We're aiming to be on menus with select restaurant partners some time in 2024.
SCiFi Foods is a privately-held company at this time. If you are an accredited investor, please reach out to our finance team to learn more about current investment opportunities here. Our investors include Andreessen Horowitz, Valor Siren Ventures, BoxGroup, Entree Capital, along with select angels.
In three years we will be on menus and shelves across the country (and beyond 😉). Get your ketchup ready.