Featuring Eat Just Inc, MeaTech, MeliBio, and California Cultured to name but a few, CULT Food Science is a rapidly-expanding investment platform looking to advance the future of food with an exclusive focus on cultivated meat, cultured dairy, and cell-based foods.
We talked in depth with Lejjy Gafour, the president of CULT Food Science, who has a fascinating personal story about his journey into the world of cell-based.
How and why was CULT Food Science born?
CULT Food Science was born out of a group of experienced operators and investors who recognized the immense potential that cell-based foods and technologies have. CULT Food Science exists to support and develop the most cutting-edge cell-based technologies (and people) globally to bring cell-based foods to everyday people.
Through our public listing, we are able to provide people with the ability to support cell-based companies and technology development when it is normally restricted to institutional investors alone. Today’s consumers are aware of the toll that mass food production takes on people’s lives and the planet, and we wanted to align with that by providing people with the ability to invest in the progress of an industry that can change that.
As president of CULT, what drew you personally to the alt protein world?
That is a very long story! I actually grew up on a small rural farm in deep poverty with little to eat. I have had my hands in the dirt and understand what it means to suffer from a lack of food security. Often when people talk about terms like food sovereignty, food security, and ethics, it is something that is removed from any real person’s suffering. It is formed into statistics and percentages.
“I have had my hands in the dirt and understand what it means to suffer from a lack of food security”
I rather literally carry the scars of malnutrition in my youth and will probably die an early death because of it of how I had to live in my youth. Doing what I can to try and keep that from happening to other people is why I am here – regardless of how difficult it may be.
Technologies like cellular agriculture have the ability to make a positive impact in the world and help address issues like climate change if we take an active approach to its development and the policies surrounding it.
This is what has driven me to start Future Fields as a co-founder, help create Cellular Agriculture Canada, and now take on my new role here at CULT Food Science.
It seems CULT is unstoppable at the moment, making high profile investments in a whole raft of companies. What is the overall strategy? How big do you want to go?
We will be the global leader in cell-based foods through both investment and technology development in-house. The goal is to make cell-based food available to everyday people through the work we do.
“The goal is to make cell-based food available to everyday people through the work we do.”
By investing and developing biotechnology across the entire chain of production, we are building a platform of technologies that cover everything from cell lines, bioreactors, growth media, scaling, and all the way to consumer products.
Can you explain the differences between the cellular agriculture approaches of the types of companies that CULT is backing?
We invest in both “cellular” and “acellular” approaches. More plainly, we invest in both the production of things that use animal cells and things that use plant cells or microbiological processes to make great products.
More in-depth; acellular products are made of organic molecules like proteins and fats and contain no cellular or living material in the final product. One example is milk proteins made with something like yeast. Often it does involve a precision fermentation process. In a very general sense, companies are taking something like simple sugar as an input “food” and then using a microbial process to consume the sugar to create their desired product.
Cellular products are made of living or once-living cells. At a very high level, a company will collect a cell sample, grow these cells in a bioreactor with growth media (the “food” cells need to grow), and then harvest the cells to create the final product.
We also invest in the infrastructure and hardware needed to make all these wonderful things happen.
What would you say to those who doubt the scalability and cost-effectiveness of cellular agriculture technology?
The answer really depends on who is saying it. I would say any analysis that takes a static point in time measurement of the current state of the industry and makes the conclusion that is as far as the industry will get likely has not spent much time building products.
The number of things that seem insurmountable when trying to build anything is endless. But, as long as something is physically possible, there is always a way to iterate forward towards your goal. This is as true for cellular agriculture as much as it was for computing and other technologies.
“if we do not take action to create a new food system, the problems we face today will get worse. We have to choose to take action”
I would also add: everyone has to eat. It sounds basic but in those words lies the abstract truth that if we do not take action to create a new food system, the problems we face today just won’t magically go away and will get worse. We have to choose to take action. The companies we see today have continued to break down every barrier that has been put forward as an industry killer.
What’s next on the horizon for CULT Food Science?
We will be announcing further IP developments, adding new inspiring founders to our portfolio through investment, and announcing new CULT Prize semi-finalists. I would encourage any researcher or entrepreneur who has yet to join in on cellular agriculture to reach out to me directly so we can talk, because we here at CULT are just getting started.