Competition promotes innovation, but for a nascent industry, one strategy is for competitors to band together to tackle fundamental technical obstacles, set standards, and exchange knowledge in a way that benefits the industry as a whole.
The Tufts University Center for Cellular Agriculture (TUCCA) has announced the formation of the TUCCA Consortium, which will include industry and nonprofit partners, to support research in a field that many believe may be the future of food.
Cellular agriculture is the process of producing meat products by growing cells in bioreactors. This eliminates the requirement for farm animals, as well as the associated enormous swathes of cleared land for farms and significant feedstock, water, and waste management demands.
Startups and academic laboratories have started to manufacture cultivated meat produced from cells to duplicate pork, lamb, fish, and chicken, although cellular agriculture is still in its early stages. Reaching the stage where it can feed millions, if not billions, of people will involve overcoming obstacles.
These include improving procedures for rapidly growing and forming cells into meat products with the taste, nutrition, and texture of regular meat, as well as expanding production for mass consumption.
While cellular agriculture has great potential for sustainability, competitors can advantage from sharing knowledge and techniques for minimizing environmental effects, identifying replacements for all animal-sourced ingredients, and assessing the economic and environmental cost of production.
These are just a handful of the areas that the TUCCA Consortium may investigate. Prioritizing difficulties will be decided by consortium members, who will subsequently concentrate their resources on research to develop solutions.
The nine founding members of the Consortium represent companies and nonprofits in cellular agriculture globally. They are BioFeyn, Cargill, CellX, the Good Food Institute, MilliporeSigma, ThermoFisher Scientific, TurtleTree, UPSIDE Foods, and Vow.
We welcome new applicants that wish to join. Joining us at the table will enable a company or organization with an interest in cellular agriculture to provide input on the projects to be funded by the consortium, and early access to the technology and knowledge that comes out of those projects.”
David Kaplan, Stern Family Professor, Engineering, Tufts University
David Kaplan is the director of the TUCCA.
An annual fee paid by consortium members supports the projects.
The pre-competitive research we do together will help build the foundation of technology for the industry. These efforts may be outside the main business focus of the individual members, or beyond the scope of capability for any one member to address.”
Christel Andreassen, Associate Director, The Tufts University Center for Cellular Agriculture
Faculty and resources from several Tufts schools will be available to the consortium, including the School of Arts and Sciences, the School of Engineering, the Friedman School of Nutrition and Science Policy, the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, and the School of Medicine, as well as the Friedman School’s Food & Nutrition Innovation Institute.
Workforce training will be a significant priority for the consortium, which will establish an internship program that will allow undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral students and researchers to engage with member companies while polishing their abilities and knowledge on real-world applications.
A $10 million USDA grant was offered to Tufts in 2021 to support the creation of the National Institute for Cellular Agriculture, which will educate the next generation of experts in the field and bring together biological, social, and physical sciences to create a new cellular agriculture industry.
Tufts University is in a unique position to act as a catalyst for this new industry. In addition to our own research in developing cultured meat, we can provide resources to the consortium across multiple fields, from biology and engineering to nutrition and veterinary medicine.”
Bernard Arulanandam, Vice Provost for Research, Tufts University