How Orbillion Bio plans to bring premium cell-cultured meat to market
Based in San Francisco, Orbillion Bio aims to be the first lab-grown meat company to bring premium heritage meats such as wagyu beef, elk and bison to the market. Founded in 2019 by CEO Patricia Bubner PhD, CTO Gabriel Levesque-Tremblay, PhD, and COO Samet Yildirim, MSc, MBS, Orbillion leverages a wealth of experience in product development as well as cell-culture development and scale-up.
Artesian became an investor in Orbillion after encountering the company at the BRINC accelerator program in Hong Kong. This year, Orbillion was part of the prestigious Y-Combinator program and raised $5 million in an oversubscribed seed round. Investors clearly have an appetite for this modern farm-to-table business that aims to supply consumers with ethical and flavourful premium meat.
Globally, we consume an estimated 350 million tons of meat a year, an amount that has increased by more than 50% over the last two decades. While consumers are beginning to consider ethical consumption options including plant-based products, there is clearly still demand for meat around the world. Orbillion seeks to alleviate that demand with meat produced in the lab, rather than the pasture.
Working with farmers and ranchers, Orbillion cultivates cell lines from animals that have been bred over centuries. Orbillion’s bioprocessing capabilities allow them to quickly identify and isolate cells suitable for commercial scale production, moving from sample to product approximately five times faster than competitors. Since the meat is produced from cells rather than animals, Orbillion estimates that it will reduce land and water resource requirements by 95% while also producing 95% less carbon emissions.
A Long Heritage
Orbillion has chosen to focus on heritage meats such as wagyu beef, elk and bison. Traditionally these meats have been less accessible to most consumers because they cannot be easily commercialised. As Dr. Bubner puts it, “In the last couple of decades to meet the demands of feeding more people that eat meat, we kind of focused on the breeds that are scalable in a way by industrial agriculture. Now, you cannot scale bison by putting them on a feedlot … they couldn't survive in such an environment, so we specialized on the breeds that can.” But if any meat can be produced and scaled via cell cultures, why not begin with the highest quality and most flavourful meats? Orbillion’s methodology relies on traditional farmers and hundreds of years of animal husbandry, but vastly expands the potential output while also being more ethical and sustainable. According to Dr. Bubner, “We're making delicious meats, the meats that everybody knows and loves, just in a much better way.”
The Road Ahead
Orbillion’s next major milestone is a product release, which they hope to achieve in 2023. In order to meet that goal, Orbillion will need to reduce costs while scaling their production processes. Cell culture growth at scale is a complex and costly endeavour and Orbillion is working on a more efficient bioprocess in order to address this. But as Dr. Bubner points out, the true cost of meat is not apparent to most consumers, “It's a heavily subsidized food.” Nevertheless, she believes that within the next five years, Orbillion will have a premium beef product in the market and well on its way to being one of the three big cell cultured meat companies. “I can't wait to see what the consumers say about it, and I can't wait to tell them the story of where we got the beef cells from and how we partner with farmers. How this is truly a product, a meat product, that has been crafted by us just without the animal.”
Podcast: To learn more about Orbillion and the future of cultured meat, listen to Tim and Ali’s full chat with CEO and Co-Founder Patricia Bubner on the Artehouse Innovation series of our Artesian podcast at https://www.artesianinvest.com/podcast/episode/4e55c41c/future-of-food-crafting-new-meats-orbillion-patricia-bubner-artehouse-innovation-series-with-ali-and-tim
Waitlist: And if you’re interested in joining a future tasting at Orbillion, you can sign up to their waitlist at https://www.orbillion.com/connect