By Tony Hunter, food futurist

We’ve seen some amazing advances in cultivated meat technology so far this year. Mosa meat and Nutreco have reduced their basal media cost by a factor of 100, Ever After Foods have improved bioreactor meat output by a factor of 7, Tiamat have reduced growth factor cost by a factor of 10, the list goes on.

With exponential growth of cultivated meat technologies any technological barriers to producing cost competitive products could easily disappear in the next decade.

So, what is the long-term barrier? It’s infrastructure, not technology, that’s the biggest barrier to the adoption of not just alternative proteins but also other next generation food products. If you can’t manufacture the products, you can’t supply them. While VC funding for startups in alternative proteins and other products is still growing in regions like APAC, global funding is well down. But even harder to get is infrastructure funding for commercially unproven technologies. A study by the Good Food Institute pegged the infrastructure cost of supplying 10 % of global meat requirements in 2030 at USD1.8 trillion! With our exponential technology growth this might “only” be USD1 trillion. That’s still a lot of money. And cultivated meat will not be the only capital expenditure hungry technology looking for infrastructure funding.

As Superbrewed Food discovered when looking to fit out its biomass plant, Banks will not fund infrastructure for as yet unproven technologies. And neither will most VC’s. Expecting to acquire infrastructure funding based on a VC risk profile is simply unrealistic. Traditionally food investments are at the low end of returns on investment, and this attracts a different class of investor. But the big advantage of food investments are that they’re relatively low risk, after all people will always need to eat and drink! A growing global population and rising middle class offer even more opportunities.

So, who will fund the infrastructure? Large CPG companies, Mega-VC’s, specialist financers, governments? Do we need to create mega-fund versions of something like the Sustainable Energy Fund for Africa?

There’s no one right answer but with trillions of USD required its no small task.