The founder of IntegriCulture says that his reason for starting the research and development of cultured meat is “because it is a staple of Science Fiction”. After working at Tohoku University and Toshiba Research and Development Center, Mr Hanyu founded IntegriCulture Co., Ltd. in 2015, and launched Japan’s first artificially-cultured meat project, the Shojinmeat Project.
We asked Mr. Hanyu, the unique CEO, about his entrepreneurial story and future challenges.
Please tell readers about your current efforts
There are three major frameworks. The first one is “Shojinmeat Project“. This is a kind of club consisting mainly of high school students and young adults, and there is no definition of membership, so anyone can participate. In order to lower the technical hurdles, we have released information that allows elementary school students to challenge cell culture (eg, let’s make a cell culture device for 2000 yen etc.).
The second is an industry-academia-government collaboration called the Japan Cellular Agriculture Association (日本細胞農業協会). We plan to carry out dissemination activities on a daily basis by holding research societies, seminars, and workshops on cellular agriculture.
And the third one is our company IntegriCulture. The purpose is to commercialize culture technology. It is a spin-out company derived from the Shojinmeat Project.
Speaking of Cultured meat; it is very rare in Japan – what made you start your business?
I’ve always loved science fiction since I was a kid. When I was a student, I used to create future cities with games. Six years ago, I chose cultured meat when I was looking for the next project on the axis of “what I can do now?”
In February 2014, I prepared a pitch deck and started gathering partners. After that it connected current efforts such as Shojinmeat Project and IntegriCulture.
Please tell us more about your company’s features
By utilizing our in-house technology, called the CulNet System, we are tackling cost reduction, which is one of the issues of cultured meat.
A medium for culturing cells requires a basal medium and growth hormone, but growth hormone is the main reason for raising the cost (there is also a component of 1 g 8.1 billion yen). The trouble is that without growth hormones, cells will not grow. However, when you think carefully, the cells of humans and animals are increasing every day. This is because various organs make hormones. In CulNet System, the growth hormone that is purchased from the outside with conventional cultured meat, that is, collected from animals, is made inside the machine.
“CulNet System” is being developed so that it can be used by various people. First of all, I would like to use it for food manufacturers, etc., gradually aiming for a level that can be used at butchers in the town and finally at home.
Please tell us about your future challenges
First, we are developing products with the theme of anti-aging in the cosmetics field by April 2021. After that, we are promoting test sales of cultured foie gras by the end of 2021. This is actually planned to be developed at a certain restaurant. If you inject growth hormones from the outside, you will get rejected from the public health center, but our CulNet System does not need to do so, so preparation is proceeding without difficulty.
This foie gras will go on the market in 2023 (however, a mixture of cultured meat and plant meat is assumed at the beginning).
We will also focus on the development of steaks by 2025.
Do you think that cultured meat will become popular in Japan?
I think that dissemination activities will be vital. When the media now reports on cultured meat, the scenery of the laboratory will inevitably come to the front. At the stage of commercialization, I think that it will be manufactured in a place like a beer factory rather than a laboratory. By using the media to clearly convey who and how they make it, we would like to work on making the cultured meat familiar.
Please give a message to readers
The CulNet System is a system that allows you to make growth hormones, which are generally bought from outside, inside a machine. This system has been developed so that it can be used by various people, and we are promoting joint development in collaboration with a major food manufacturer in Japan. We would be grateful if any of the companies who think they would like to develop jointly using CulNet System would contact us. Those who want to get involved in the development of the CulNet System itself are also welcome. Apart from business, you can freely participate in Shojinmeat Project as an individual, so please see that as well.