FLORIANOPOLIS, Brazil — JBS, one of the largest food companies in the world, began work on the construction of the JBS Biotech Innovation Center, the first research, development and innovation center for cultivated protein in Brazil.
Scheduled to open at the end of 2024, the project will be located within the Sapiens Parque innovation park in Florianópolis, and will be the largest research center focused on food biotechnology in Brazil.
The JBS Biotech Innovation Center will receive an investment of $22 million, including civil works and equipment acquisitions, for the implementation of laboratories (phase 1) and the pilot plant (phase 2), and will have a scientific team of 25 postgraduates — doctors and specialists in various areas — as well as staff and administrative support staff.
“As a global leader in protein production, it is our responsibility to be at the forefront of the food industry. The JBS Biotech Innovation Center 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 and high-quality products to our consumers,” said Jerson Nascimento Jr., the global director of supply and innovation at JBS.
The initial objective of the JBS Biotech Innovation Center is to make the cultured protein production process more efficient, scalable and economically competitive. Leading the project are Dr. Luismar Marques Porto, president of the Cultured Meat Division and the JBS Biotech Innovation Center, and Fernanda Vieira Berti, vice-president of the Research Center. Both are two of the greatest experts in bioengineering in the country, with extensive international professional and academic experience.
“For us, it is a source of great satisfaction to be part of the first initiative of this size in Brazil and, also, to be able to contribute to studies that will contribute to the expansion of the sector. Without a doubt, this project will become an international reference,” said Porto.
The construction of the JBS Biotech Innovation Center had the support of local public authorities, both the government of Santa Catarina and the city of Florianópolis.
“The investment of one of the largest food companies in the world in Florianópolis is very welcome. But we are especially proud that such a globally advanced research project can be installed in our city, which is a cradle of technology and innovation," said Florianópolis Mayor Topázio Neto.
The governor of Santa Catarina, Jorginho Mello, highlighted that JBS Biotech Innovation reinforces the State's vocation for innovation.
“For those who grew up watching cattle grazing through the window in Herval D'Oeste, it's almost out of this world to think about 'cultured protein.' But as a public manager, it is impossible not to see the challenges of the future, especially for countries that do not have as much area as Brazil for livestock farming. And it's good to see Santa Catarina once again acting within its innovative vocation", he said. Sapiens Parque is a project designed by the state government."
The team of scientists from the JBS Biotech Innovation Center has already started activities in temporary facilities within Sapiens Parque. Currently, the focus of studies is on understanding the cells of bovine species, through exploratory research, with the aim of establishing the production of cultivated bovine protein in the future.
In total, the JBS Biotech Innovation Center will require approximately US$62 million in investments in three phases. The third stage consists of building a basic module on an industrial scale to demonstrate the technical-economic viability of the cultivated protein. This project will serve as a model for future plants that JBS builds globally to produce cultivated protein from cattle and other species.
In addition to the project in Florianópolis, JBS has been developing research into protein grown in Spain. The company is the controlling shareholder, with a 51% stake, of Biotech Foods, a Spanish company that is one of the European leaders in the sector and which currently operates a pilot plant in San Sebastián, in the Basque region.
At the end of last year, Biotech Foods began construction of the world's largest cultivated beef protein factory in San Sebastián. With an investment of $41 million, a value equivalent to more than R$200 million, BioTech Foods' first commercial-scale industrial plant is scheduled to be completed in mid-2024. The investment is a milestone in the sector, as the plant , when completed, it will be able to produce more than a thousand tons of cultivated protein per year, and can expand its capacity to up to 4 thousand tons per year.
When in the commercial phase, the cultivated protein to be produced by JBS will initially reach consumers in the form of prepared foods, such as hamburgers, sausages, meatballs, among others, with the same quality, safety, flavor and texture as traditional protein. The technology has potential not only for the production of beef protein, but also for chicken, pork and fish.