JBS to establish Brazil's first cultivated protein research centre

JBS aims to make production of cultivated meat more efficient
calendar icon 26 September 2023
clock icon 4 minute read

JBS, one of the world's largest food companies, has commenced construction of Brazil’s first cultivated protein R&D innovation centre, according to a company-issued press release

Scheduled to open at the end of 2024, the new JBS Biotech Innovation Centre at Sapiens Parque innovation hub in Florianópolis, Santa Catarina, will be the largest research facility focused on food biotechnology in Brazil.

JBS will invest US$ 22 million in the construction of lab facilities and the pilot plant, and will have a scientific team of 25 specialist post-doctoral researchers, as well as staff and clerical support.

"As a global leader in protein production, it is our responsibility to be at the forefront of food tech," said JBS global supply and innovation director Jerson Nascimento Jr. "The JBS Biotech Innovation Centre reinforces our commitment to the cultivated protein sector, consolidates our position as one of the main players in this very promising market, and reinforces our commitment to offering innovative, high-quality products to our consumers."

The initial aim of the JBS Biotech Innovation Centre is to make the production process for cultivated protein more efficient, scalable and economically competitive. The project is being led by Dr Luismar Marques Porto, president of the company’s Cultivated Meat Division and the JBS Biotech Innovation Centre, and Fernanda Vieira Berti, vice-president of the Research Centre, two of Brazil’s leading bioengineering specialists, with extensive international professional and academic experience.

"We are delighted to be part of the first initiative of this size in Brazil and to be able to contribute to studies that will help expand the sector. We are confident this project will become an international benchmark," said Dr Porto.

The governor of Santa Catarina, Jorginho Mello, stressed that the JBS Biotech Innovation Centre reinforces the state's innovation focus. 

"For those of us who grew up watching cattle graze from our windows in Herval D'Oeste, it's almost out of this world to think of 'cultivated protein'," he said. "But as a public representative it's impossible not to see the future challenges, especially for countries that do not have as much land as Brazil to raise cattle. And it's good to see Santa Catarina once again championing breakthrough innovation." 

The mayor of Florianópolis, Topázio Neto, also highlighted the investment in innovation in the Santa Catarina capital. "The investment of one of the world's largest food companies in Florianópolis is very welcome. But we are especially proud that such an advanced global research project will be based in our city, which is a cradle of technology and innovation," he said.

Ongoing research

The team of scientists at the JBS Biotech Innovation Centre has already started work in temporary facilities within Sapiens Parque. While the current focus is on exploratory research to better understand beef cell cultivation, the aim is to establish cultivated beef protein production in the future.

In total, the JBS Biotech Innovation Centre will require approximately US$ 62 million investment over three phases. In the third stage, an industrial scale model will be built to demonstrate the technical and economic viability of cultivated protein. This project will serve as a model for future plants that JBS may build globally to produce beef and other cultivated protein types.

In addition to the project in Florianópolis, JBS is the controlling shareholder (with a 51 per cent stake) of Biotech Foods, a Spanish company that is one of the European leaders in the sector and currently operates a pilot plant in San Sebastián, in the Basque region.

At the end of last year, Biotech Foods began building the world's largest cultivated beef plant in San Sebastián. With an investment of US$ 41 million, equivalent to more than R$ 200 million, BioTech Foods' first commercial-scale industrial plant is scheduled for completion in mid-2024. The investment is a milestone in the sector, as when finished, the plant will be able to produce more than 1000t of cultivated protein a year, with the possibility of increasing its capacity to up to 4,000t per year.

When it reaches the commercial stage, JBS cultivated protein will initially reach consumers in the form of prepared foods, such as hamburgers, sausages, meatballs, among others, with the same quality, safety, flavour and texture as traditional protein. The technology has the potential to produce beef, as well as chicken, pork and fish.

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