Road mapping cellular agriculture for cultivated meat manufacturing

Feeding people is one of the most basic human needs. But as the earth's population grows and natural resources and climate conditions dwindle, even this most basic function is in danger of becoming unsustainable. Tackling such a massive issue requires an equally impactful collaboration from experts in many fields. That is why Purdue's College of Agriculture and College of Engineering have announced the launch of a new joint initiative: to explore cellular agriculture and other alternative proteins as a possible solution to food insecurity in the US and around the world.


The program is called I-CAFE (Initiative for Convergent-manufacturing of Agriculture and Food for Equity). “It’s designed to lay out a roadmap for the design, development, and introduction of cellular agriculture and other alternative protein foods,” explains Ajay P. Malshe, the R. Eugene and Susie E. Goodson Distinguished Professor of Mechanical Engineering. “Then we will apply that map to accelerate advancement and commercialization of desired technologies to deliver that food where people need it most. We also want to create new and high-value opportunities for farmers and communities.”

I-CAFE recently received support from the Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that builds public-private partnerships to fund audacious research addressing the biggest challenges in food and agriculture. “The Purdue proposal is fascinating because of its scale,” said John Reich, Scientific Program Director for FFAR. “They realize that this will be a huge undertaking, and so they are bringing in stakeholders from the very beginning: farmers, food scientists, biologists, engineers, manufacturers, social scientists, economists, and policymakers. Located in the farmlands of America, Purdue is well known for its excellence in both agriculture and engineering, and we’re excited to see what their collaboration brings.”

“The traditional methods of bringing meat from farm-to-fork have many issues,” said Bernard Engel, Associate Dean of the College of Agriculture and Director of Agricultural Research and Graduate Education.  “Harvestable land per capita is decreasing, and climatic conditions are exponentially challenging nutritious food equity. The breakthrough idea of cellular agriculture and alternative protein food is to leverage our existing expertise at the convergence of multiple disciplines to create new opportunities for much higher efficiency, much lower natural resource impact, and new earning and job opportunities for urban and rural farmers.”

“Bringing our engineering and manufacturing expertise into the process will be a game-changer,” said Weinong Chen, Associate Dean for Research and Innovation in the College of Engineering. “Working together, our Agriculture colleagues will perfect the cell cultures, and our Engineering colleagues will perfect the manufacturing processes, and then the economies of scale take over. You can create massive amounts of food in a factory setting, or your neighborhood could have its own ‘micro-brewery’ for meat. These farms of the future can operate at any scale.”

“I’m confident that we can address the science and engineering knowledge gaps to realize a scaleable cellular agriculture platform,” said Michael Sealy, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering. “It’s our aspiration that cellular agriculture and alternative protein food will do more than just feed people; it will create robust biomanufacturing tech jobs, enrich communities, and tackle food insecurity around the world with equity and sustainability.”


Source: Ajay P. Malshe,