But if you’re Chef Shimamura Masaharu of Japan, someone who writes that in high school he wondered whether to “to wear a cook’s lab coat or a scientist’s lab coat,” straddling the two worlds makes perfect sense.Which is why the chef/owner of Michelin-starred restaurant Unkaku has launched DiverseFarm, a joint venture with cell-ag technology company TissueByNet.
We’re excited to announce that we signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Mitsubishi Corporation’s Food Industry Group to bring cultivated meat to the Japanese table. We will provide our proven, scalable manufacturing platform (BioFarm™) for cultivation of whole-muscle steaks. Mitsubishi Corporation will provide its expertise in biotechnology processes, branded food manufacturing, and local distribution channels in Japan.
The first move is the government initiative in establishing the Food Tech Research Group. The Food Tech Research Group, including over 100 companies, was launched by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) in April 2020. It aims to foster the food industry and strengthen Japan’s food security through utilizing different cutting-edge technology.
In April, the ministry established a food-tech study group with about 100 organizations, including major food companies, universities and research institutes. By the end of June, the ministry will compile a report on a strategy to supply for the next generation sources of protein, including alternative and cultured meat, algae and insects. In July, the government and the private sector will set up a council to expedite the development of legislation with an eye to industrialization.
Japanese food tech IntegriCulture Inc. has just completed its Series A funding with ¥800 million (US$7.4 million). The round was led by Beyond Next Ventures, NH Foods and AgFunder, and marks the largest Series A raised by the cultivated food startup industry and the largest publicly disclosed by any alternative protein company in the region. IntegriCulture plans to use the capital to push forward cell-based meat development and the company’s first commercial-scale bioreactor.
Taken together, Japan’s nascent vegan movement, desire for meat and willingness to experiment with new technology stand Hanyu in good stead. Add land shortages and continued funding interest to the mix and the scene may be set for his desired future. But the obstacles to cultured meat are as real in Japan as they are elsewhere. Even as cost is expected to drop and acceptability to rise, it remains to be seen if the technology can deliver at scale and compete with novel meat replacements. In the short term, Japan will need to focus on diversifying its protein sources.