Gear up people as by next year, India is all set to get a taste of cell-based or ‘clean’ meat as the Maharashtra government is giving the state-funded Institute of Chemical Technology (ICT) a go-ahead to establish a cellular agriculture research centre in the state. This will be the world’s first dedicated centre on cellular agriculture and will pioneer innovation, allowing Indian businesses a chance to create products using its own research.
ICT has joined hands with The Good Food Institute, a global non-profit organisation engaged in promoting the plant- and cell-based meat sector through research and commercialisation, to establish a lab facility in Mumbai by 2020.
The two entities are expected to sign an MoU to set up a ‘Centre of Excellence in Cellular Agriculture’, which will see the Mumbai laboratory coming up in the first phase, followed by a larger research facility at ICT’s Jalna campus by 2021. Both organisations will jointly focus on raising funds from philanthropists, charitable foundations and government institutions for the centre.
Cellular agriculture involves using biotechnology to produce animal-based products in a controlled environment instead of breeding and slaughtering animals. Proponents of cell-based meat, which is created by cultivating a small sample of animal cells in a laboratory, claim that it does not differ from regular meat in taste or protein content. The resulting product is 100% real meat, minus the antibiotics, E. coli, salmonella or animal waste.
ICT will lend its brand name, land at Jalna campus and academic resources for the research centre, and GFI will bring in the know-how and access to experts in field of cellular agriculture technology. Entrepreneurs will come in to work in conjunction with the experts at the centre of excellence to create their own products, which they will then go on to launch in the market. The initial budget for the research centre is expected to be over Rs. 50 crore.
Indian companies focusing on cell-based meat can take a bite out of the rapidly growing Rs. 20,000-crore Indian meat sector as well as the global industry, which is worth nearly a trillion dollars. As per the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA), India’s total meat exports, including poultry, exceeded Rs. 20,500 crore during April-December 2018.