Food Innovation with Cellular Agriculture

Can we reinforce our food supply chains sustainably, diversify and grow our food and agriculture sector, and reap the benefits from new global economic markets?

How can early-stage start-ups in genomics and engineering biology drive food innovation?

How do we take a national strategy and apply a regional lens to our actions?

Ontario Genomics supports cutting-edge cellular agriculture projects addressing industry opportunities, solving challenges, and benefiting the cellular agriculture ecosystem as well as the food and beverage industry in Ontario.

Investing in the Future of Food

According to the 2021 Ontario Genomics report, Cellular Agriculture, Canada’s $12.5 Billion Food Opportunity, Canada has a significant opportunity in food innovation on the horizon. The first of its kind in Canada, this report features extensive stakeholder input and an economic analysis, providing critical considerations for Canada’s emerging cellular agriculture industry.

Economic analysis from the report suggests a $7.5 billion-a-year industry and up to 86,000 jobs by 2030. Longer term, the industry has the potential to reach $12.5 billion a year with the creation of up to 142,000 jobs.

The report also outlines three interconnected actionable opportunities for Canada to capitalize on this rapidly expanding and high-potential global market expected to approach US$100 billion in the next decade. To achieve success, Canada must:

  1. Develop a national vision and strategy for the Canadian cellular agriculture industry in the near term,
  2. Establish a clear and transparent regulatory framework for cellular agriculture products in Canada, and
  3. Provide supporting mechanisms for research and commercial development.

Following the report, Ontario Genomics and the Canadian Food Innovation Network (CFIN) collaborated to launch the AcCELLerate-ON – Food Innovation with Cellular Agriculture competition, with a joint $900K total funding envelope open to Ontario start-ups, SMEs and researchers.

AcCELLerate-ON is Canada’s first cellular agriculture competition, supporting the research and development of novel and innovative food production methods with the intent to drive economic growth and Ontario’s global leadership in this new and sustainable way to produce food.

An ever-increasing global population, alongside the negative effects of climate change on traditional food production, will lead to an expected 76 per cent increase in food requirements by 2050. To meet this demand, current food production methods must be supplemented by novel and sustainable food production techniques.

Cellular agriculture encompasses several innovative approaches that use cell cultures, tissue-engineering, or precision fermentation-based techniques to create a variety of products that have been traditionally produced through conventional agriculture production mechanisms. These cutting-edge technologies offer a unique opportunity to help meet the global food demand while providing significant environmental and economic benefits.

“Developing a cellular agriculture ecosystem is essential to expanding Canada’s ability to meet the growing food demand around the globe and to accelerate innovation in the food production sector. Through the AcCELLerate-ON program, we are building a stronger, more sustainable future for Canadians.” – The Honourable François-Philippe Champagne Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry

“It is very clear that cellular agriculture is garnering the interest and dollars of the global investor community. AcCELLerate-ON will help Ontario’s most innovative food start-ups and researchers get to the next level by supporting product development, job creation and revenue generation. By leveraging our existing strengths, this partnership between CFIN and Ontario Genomics is a critical step to growing Ontario’s cellular agriculture ecosystem.” – Dr. Bettina Hamelin President and CEO, Ontario Genomics

The four genomics and engineering biology projects that were awarded through AcCELLerate-ON were chosen for their potential to drive food innovation, address industry opportunities, solve challenges, and benefit the cellular agriculture ecosystem and food and beverage industry in Ontario.

Ardra Inc.:  Developing fermentation-based production of heme as a natural flavour ingredient.

Heme provides a core element of the taste of meat, making it an attractive ingredient to enhance the flavour and appearance of plant-based meat alternatives. Ardra has demonstrated production of animal-free heme by precision fermentation and has active requests for larger sample amounts from several major flavour companies. Their AcCELLerate-ON project objective is to reach pilot-scale for heme production, validation of their key ingredients by these potential customers, and to establish a clear path to market.

CELL AG TECH: Scaling up the manufacturing of fish muscle stem cells from a 2D to 3D culture system.

Working with CCRM/Cytiva, a global leader in scaling up cell manufacturing, CELL AG TECH intends to grow snapper cells in 2D and 3D, to lay the foundation for commercial-scale production and commercialization. This level of scale-up will move the company closer to commercial scale production and price competitiveness, as well as providing data for regulatory processes. In addition, it will produce a greater number of cells for experiments and R&D initiatives, such as valuable optimization parameters and creation of additional food product prototypes.

Evolved: Creating cultivated pork belly that is identical to conventional pork belly.

Evolved intends to create whole cuts of scaffold-free cultivated meat that are structurally and biochemically identical to conventional meat products. Using their proprietary cell sheet engineering techniques and transitioning their products from muscle to meat, Evolved will create cultivated meat products, from any livestock species, that align with consumer preferences and consumption habits. Focusing here on pork, Evolved will develop a 4-step quality control system to ensure that their cultivated meat has the same properties as animal-derived meat.

Dr. Michael Garton (University of Toronto): Establishing the foundational tools for cultivated pork production.

The Garton team, in partnership with Myo Palate, proposes to design synthetic gene circuits that can be integrated with stem cells to direct muscle transformation and maturation processes. By introducing genetic circuits, the cells will be better able to carry out cellular differentiation without the requirement for adding additional factors, improving the safety and lowering the cost of cultivated meat. Successful completion of this project will establish an engineering biology tool kit to manufacture lab-grown pork, which will benefit Ontario’s cellular agriculture food business ecosystem by enhancing cell behaviour at a sustainable cost.

“Transformative innovation is the only way to solve global food challenges. These four home-grown projects represent a unique and sustainable approach to feeding a growing global population while demonstrating the potential of Canadian food innovation.” – Joseph Lake CEO, Canadian Food Innovation Network (CFIN)

The successful projects are jointly funded by Ontario Genomics and CFIN and will be completed within 12-18 months.