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British investors have an appetite for firms making lab-grown sausages and burgers

British investors have an appetite for firms making lab-grown sausages and burgers
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British investors, including the founder of smoothie company Innocent Drinks, are ploughing money into start-ups which hope to serve up laboratory-grown sausages and burgers.

Agronomics, an AIM-listed firm targeting investments in so-called clean food companies, is poised to unveil a deal to buy a 7 per cent stake in a San Francisco-based start-up called Simply Foods Inc, which trades as New Age Meats, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.

It comes as entrepreneurs and high-profile businessmen such as Sir Richard Branson look to cash in on the growing trend among millennials and more ethically-conscious consumers to avoid food which comes from animals.

Hitch: It currently costs £145 to make enough meat for one New Age sausage
Hitch: It currently costs £145 to make enough meat for one New Age sausage

New Age, which makes meat in labs from animal cells, was the first company in the world to grow a sausage in a lab using the cells from a pig.

Its advocates say the meat is likely to appeal to many vegans because the process means animals will not need to be slaughtered.

And it is claimed the new techniques will also cut greenhouse gases, reduce illnesses caused by food being transported, and save land and energy.

The investment by Agronomics is worth $700,000 (£565,000) and values New Age at $10 million (£8 million).

Agronomics, which is chaired by Innocent Drinks founder Richard Reed and backed by Brexit donor Jim Mellon, is investing alongside New York-based firm FF Venture Capital.

New Age, which is raising a total of at least $2million (£1.6million), currently burns through around $200,000 (£160,000) every month for research and development.

New Age’s first lab-grown sausage cost around $3,000 (£2,400) to make because of the time and processes involved in production.

It has since reduced the cost of production but it still stands at close to $180 (£145) for an amount of meat that will make a single sausage. It is not expected to become commercial until at least 2021 and the investment will be used to examine ways to shorten the process.

Links: Agronomics, which is chaired by Innocent Drinks founder Richard Reed and backed by Brexit donor Jim Mellon, is investing alongside New York-based firm FF Venture Capital
Links: Agronomics, which is chaired by Innocent Drinks founder Richard Reed and backed by Brexit donor Jim Mellon, is investing alongside New York-based firm FF Venture Capital

Some entrepreneurs working in clean meat companies believe it may be ten years before they are launched in restaurants.

The cells that New Age use come from a pig called Jessie, which the company names on its website as its ‘chief sausage officer’.

Unlike other vegan dishes which have been criticised for failing to taste as good as meat, journalists who tried New Age’s first sausage last year said it tasted like normal sausages.

Brian Spears, founder of New Age, said: ‘Cultured meat simultaneously addresses three major issues: human health, the environment and animal welfare.

‘This is the first small step we are taking to reverse climate change, stop breeding animals into a life that’s not worth living and to help humans to become healthier.’

Costly: New Age, which is raising a total of at least $2million (£1.6million), currently burns through around $200,000 (£160,000) every month for research and development
Costly: New Age, which is raising a total of at least $2million (£1.6million), currently burns through around $200,000 (£160,000) every month for research and development

Last year, Branson, who has invested in another clean meat start-up called Memphis Meats, said: ‘In 30 years or so, I believe we will look back and be shocked at what was the accepted way we killed animals en masse for food.’ However, some studies have shown people are put off by the concept because they view it as unnatural.

It is the second investment made by Agronomics which has already backed a company called BlueNalu. The San Diego-based firm claims to be months away from serving up whole pieces of yellowtail amberjack fish to staff.

Last month, Agronomics raised £4.5million (£3.6million) to spend on a series of investments. It hopes to amass a portfolio of ten to 15 ‘clean meat’ companies that will spawn successful businesses.

Reed founded Innocent Drinks with two fellow Cambridge graduates before selling it to Coca-Cola for more than $500million (£403million) in 2013.

The launch of Agronomics in April came just days before the blockbuster New York stock market float of Beyond Meat.

The US firm, which has produced plant-based burgers and sausages, issued shares to new investors on May 1 at $25 (£20) each. However, a stampede to buy its shares since then has pushed them up to $234 (£189), valuing the entire company at $14 billion (£11.3billion).

Shares in Agronomics have nearly doubled in that time.

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