In a significant stride toward making cultivated meat an affordable and accessible alternative to traditional animal-based meats, Kiryat Shemona-based FoodTech start-up, BioBetter Ltd., has opened its first food-grade pilot facility. This initiative aims to accelerate the production of crucial growth factors (GFs) in the cultivated meat industry. BioBetter is harnessing the potential of tobacco plants as animal-free bioreactors, effectively addressing the bottleneck challenges that the cellular agriculture industry faces.
Solving the Cost Conundrum in Cultivated Meat Production
One of the major roadblocks to mainstream adoption of cultivated meat is its cost, driven significantly by expensive growth mediums. Amit Yaari, Ph.D., and CEO of BioBetter, puts this in perspective: “Our target is to reduce the production cost of growth factors, including insulin, to $1 per gram—a 100-fold reduction from the current rates.” By focusing on driving down these costs, BioBetter aims to enable cultivated meat companies to scale up and compete with conventional meat products.
Milestones and Collaborations
Within just the past year, BioBetter has achieved several impressive milestones:
1. Production scale-up and building a pilot plant.
2. Commercial-scale cultivation of insulin- and FGF-expressing tobacco plants.
3. Reaching growth factor expression levels that facilitate a significant reduction in production costs.
4. Regulatory advances in collaboration with the Israel Ministry of Health.
5. Partnerships with leading cultivated meat companies.
Transforming Tobacco Plants into Bioreactors
BioBetter's revolutionary technology transforms traditionally shunned tobacco plants into bioreactors for producing GFs. These factors are essential for the proliferation and differentiation of cultured meat cells. With environmental safety at its core, these bioreactors are part of a large-scale net house cultivation system that prevents the escape of transgenic material.
Sustainability and Regulatory Compliance
Dana Yarden, M.D., and co-founder of BioBetter, emphasizes the company’s holistic approach to sustainability. The company plans to use recycled and low-quality water for irrigation, minimize the use of nitrogen fertilizers, and reduce emissions. Adhering to the highest quality standards, including ISO2200 and HACCP, the newly established pilot plant meets all regulatory requirements for the production of food-grade growth factors.
Workforce and Future Plans
The company’s workforce has more than doubled from 23 to 50 in anticipation of production, cultivation, and R&D advancements. BioBetter is poised for its next growth stage, targeting the daily processing of 25 tons of leaves by 2025, ultimately aiming for an annual commercial production of five tons.
The Road Ahead
While BioBetter has already demonstrated successful large-scale cultivation of growth factor-expressing plants, commercial roll-out is projected for 2024. The burgeoning cultivated meat industry, valued at USD250 million globally, could see significant growth spurred by BioBetter’s disruptive technology.
BioBetter’s pilot facility is more than an innovative FoodTech experiment; it is a monumental step toward realizing the commercial potential of the cultivated meat industry. Backed by a USD10 million A-round investment led by Jerusalem Venture Partners and as an active member of the Israeli Cultivated Meat Consortium, BioBetter is at the forefront of solving some of the most critical challenges this nascent industry faces.
By achieving significant cost reductions in growth factor production and ensuring environmental responsibility, BioBetter is not just raising the stakes—it’s changing the game.