CAS, the Cellular Agriculture Society, is an international 501c3 nonprofit based in the United States. It was founded by Kristopher Gasteratos to create awareness on ‘cellular agriculture’, the process of farming animal products from cells instead of animals. CAS claims, “The concept of Cellular Agriculture, or CellAg for short, has the potential to address various global problems caused by intensive animal agriculture (also known as factory farming).” They point to a multitude of health, ethical, and environmental issues caused by intensive animal farming; CAS believes these issues are broadly solvable by using the process of cellular agriculture to instead produce animal-based foods and materials from cells. A comprehensive list of issues arising from conventional animal agriculture and the potential benefits of cellular agriculture can be found within the Harvard & Stanford-profiled article from CAS called 90 Reasons to Consider Cellular Agriculture. The many potential solutions that cellular agriculture could provide are the basis for the existence of CAS, as encompassed in their mantra, “For the people, for the animals, for the world”. CAS predicts that in the future “CellAg will solve intensive animal farming by removing the animal itself, producing real animal products like meat, dairy, and eggs from cells instead of livestock”.
The cellular agriculture space has rapidly accelerated over the last decade, evolving from the first startups that were founded in the mid-2010s and just a handful of people working full-time in CellAg globally, to a now expansive slate of dozens of companies and NGOs across the world, having raised over $1 billion dollars in funding by 2020. In recent years, cellular agriculture has also caught the attention of some high-profile backers including Bill Gates, Sergey Brin, and Richard Branson, as well as leaders in the traditional agriculture sector such as Tyson, Cargill, and ADM. All of whom, CAS claims, “are investing in a future where the same animal-based commodities people love today (ie. meat, dairy, leather and fur) will soon be made without raising and slaughtering animals”.
CAS, as an independent public charity, has worked on projects ranging from social science, policy, and funding academic research, to environmental analyses, public education, design, film, and the establishment of cellular agriculture in higher education, including their work helping to create the first course on cell-based meat at Stanford University. In 2019, they began to strongly emphasize design & video production, believing “this creative focus will help to create a vision for a world in which animal products will soon not come from farming animals, but from cells instead”. CAS is likely best known for their award-winning website, their designs for a cell-based meat facility of the future called Project CMF, originally unveiled at Google, and their development of the first textbook on cellular agriculture.
The leadership structure of their nonprofit is as unorthodox as the concept they represent. Instead of hiring multiple full-time staff, CAS, functioning primarily in the creative and educational domains, outsources parts of their core projects to a broader team of global partners, including creative studios like monopo. This structure, their founder claims, “is the best way to create top-tier visual & creative efforts for cellular agriculture, all of which help to inspire a growing global community”. Their team also includes a group of CAS Fellows, including university students, financial experts from hedge funds on Wall Street, freelance designers, and active military personnel. These CAS team members represent over 15 countries and work on diverse areas of CellAg including textbooks, children’s books, educational simulations, video productions, design & animation, social science research, language translations and artificial intelligence/programming-based projects.
Their advisory board includes members like Deepika Phakke, former Chief of Staff at Google, two of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in best-selling psychologist, Dr. Steven Pinker and Dr. George Church of Harvard Medical School, as well as over a dozen more advisors from Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, and MIT, many of whom Gasteratos met while building CAS as a student at Harvard. Lastly, their Industry Partners comprise a majority of the active cellular agriculture companies in the world, many of whom work with CAS to ensure technical accuracy with the many educational and visual projects CAS has underway. Please visit the CAS Team webpage to see the expanded team.
Kristopher, CAS Founder and current President/Creative Director, has been vocal about his dismay with the serious ramifications of factory farming. He has made bold predictions of its “complete collapse” by the end of the century, believing cellular agriculture will supersede animal agriculture after certain benchmarks are achieved in the decades ahead. The impetus for his work and creating CAS began when Kristopher, having grown up in New Jersey and Florida, detached from the realities of animal farming, discovered its diverse problems at 18 years old while researching for an undergraduate course. He, shortly after, realized cellular agriculture proposed a unique solution to the many problems brought on by intensive livestock farming. As a student at Florida Atlantic University at the time, he also conducted research in a bioengineering lab, and served as a part-time instructor and tutor in biology, calculus, and chemistry, but he quickly began to dedicate the majority of his time to the concept of CellAg.
From the beginning, Kristopher, a scientist himself, “saw the scientific hurdles of cellular agriculture as an integral piece to the puzzle but also felt there was a bigger picture that needed to be realized for CellAg to succeed”, he claims. He was interested in addressing what he refers to as “the neglected areas of CellAg”, filling the gaps in the field that would ultimately allow the concept to revolutionize the world. Gasteratos often makes an analogy to another evolving technology that may soon revolutionize the world, driverless cars; he suggests that while the science and R&D is a necessary challenge to solve, which many car companies are scrambling to tackle, the regulatory hurdles, as well as overall consumer acceptance for the concept must also be in place for the technology to truly take root across the world. Cellular Agriculture has a similar ‘Big 3’ for success, and “consumer understanding of cellular agriculture is a critically important, yet relatively neglected area that needs the right attention”, Gasteratos claims. This domain of cellular agriculture education became a primary focus for Kristopher in his early years in CellAg and would later, by extension, comprise much of the work that CAS does.
At age 19, Kristopher began his first major CellAg project seeking to complete the first market research study on cellular agriculture. Gasteratos explains, “There were only a few dozen people in the world working on cellular agriculture in the early 2010’s, and almost all of them were dedicated solely to facing the natural science challenges. However, it seemed that social science, or discovering what eventual markets might exist for products like cell-based meat, would be quite important to understand as well.” Gasteratos completed this first global market research study of cell-based meat in 2015, which culminated in data that helped to bring CellAg into the forefront of the ag-biotech space, attracting millions in investments for the first startups in the field. At this time, he also began to develop a comprehensive list of potential benefits that cellular agriculture could bring about. This would later be published in the form of 90 Reasons to Consider Cellular Agriculture, or 90 Reasons for short, profiled by Harvard and Stanford, receiving over 10,000 downloads in its first three months, and endorsed by world-renowned academics like Steven Pinker and Peter Singer.
About a year after the completion of that market research study, Gasteratos felt compelled to start an organization that would better catalyze progress in CellAg, motivating him to apply to Harvard as a dual-matriculated student and begin the formal organizational development of CAS while there. After being accepted, Gasteratos was on a mission to bring cellular agriculture to Harvard, and more broadly, to the world thereafter. Harvard was also where Gasteratos would become the first cellular agriculture researcher/scholar at the university and the Ivy League overall. While simultaneously working as a researcher at Harvard Law School, he began to give the first lectures on cellular agriculture at Harvard, as well as at MIT and local events in the Boston area. His work there, alongside future colleagues at CAS, was featured in publications like Science, and an environmental report he published would become a Harvard-trending literature in 2017. After the CAS launch in 2018, CAS was accepted into the Harvard Innovation Lab in recognition of the nonprofit’s immense problem-solving potential. Although Gasteratos notes his enrollment as a student and researcher at Harvard was important, he ultimately spent more time devoted to cellular agriculture and CAS than to his school work; this led to his dropping out to work at CAS full-time later in 2018.
Thereafter, Kristopher and the CAS team would go on to spearhead the world’s first course on cell-based meat at Stanford, the Harvard/Stanford-profiled comprehensive list of CellAg benefits through 90 Reasons, the first cell-based meat facility design through Project CMF, and the first textbook on cellular agriculture. CAS also invests heavily into its award-winning website, which launched in 2020 to grant a free and easy awareness-building resource to anyone through www.CellAg.org.
Kristopher has contributed to books, articles, and documentaries on cellular agriculture, and is among the first guest lecturers to speak on the topic at institutions and companies including Harvard, Stanford, Google, City University London, Texas A&M, and MIT. He has developed partnerships between CAS and the U.N., Harvard, and Elsevier and continues to work on accelerating the field of cellular agriculture through CAS.
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