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Global meat giant JBS has begun construction on “Brazil’s first” cultivated protein R&D innovation centre.

Scheduled to open in Q4 2024, the JBS Biotech Innovation Centre – located at Sapiens Parque innovation hub in Florianópolis, Santa Catarina – will be the largest research facility focused on food biotechnology in Brazil.

JBS is investing $22 million in phase one and phase two which focus on the construction of lab facilities and a pilot plant. The site will initially employ a team of 25 specialist post-doctoral researchers, as well as staff and clerical support.

JBS’s global supply and innovation director, Jerson Nascimento, said: “As a global leader in protein production, it is our responsibility to be at the forefront of food-tech. 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.”

With the new centre, JBS aims to make the production process for cultivated protein more efficient, scalable and economically competitive. The project is being led by president of the company’s cultivated meat division and the JBS Biotech Innovation Centre, Luismar Marques Porto, and Fernanda Vieira Berti, VP of the research centre. According to JBS, Porto and Berti are two of Brazil’s leading bioengineering specialists and bring “extensive” international professional and academic experience.

JBS new cultivated protein research centre

The governor of the Brazilian state of Santa Catarina, Jorginho Mello, commented: “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’. 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 team of scientists at the new centre have already begun working in temporary facilities within Sapiens Parque. While the current focus is to explore research to optimise beef cell cultivation, JBS says the main aim is to establish cell-based beef production in the future.

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

In addition to this project, JBS is the controlling shareholder (with a 51% stake) of Biotech Foods, a Spanish company that currently operates a pilot plant in San Sebastián, Basque, Spain. In Q4 2022, Biotech Foods began building the “world’s largest” cell-based beef plant in San Sebastián.

With an investment of $41 million, BioTech Foods’ first commercial-scale industrial plant is scheduled for completion in mid-2024. Once complete, the plant will be able to produce more than 1000 tonnes of cultivated protein annually, with the possibility of increasing its capacity to up to 4,000 tonnes per year.

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

JBS begins work on Brazil’s first cultivated protein research centre

Phoebe Fraser

27 September 2023

JBS begins work on Brazil’s first cultivated protein research centre

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