The former CEO and co-founder of Future Fields has left the Edmonton-based cellular agriculture startup to join CULT Food Science, an investment platform that is working to advance the future of food.
"My switch gives me a much broader viewpoint to really focus on the development of the ecosystem, and invest in innovative companies around the world who are in a position to make this change," said Lejjy Gafour, who was named president of CULT Food Science on Jan. 24.
"I'm in a position now to support the growth of cellular agriculture and precision fermentation more broadly. The problems that I feel we will face tomorrow, they still remain unsolved when it comes to food security and climate change."
CULT Food Science, which focuses on supporting the development of new technologies to produce cultivated meat, cultured dairy, and cell-based foods, is Vancouver-based, but Gafour plans to stay in Edmonton for now.
As he begins his new role, he's hoping to work with both local companies and others across the country that are interested in cellular agriculture or advanced food technology.
"With hard tech, or biotech, there's this massive barrier to getting space and equipment, because it's a physical thing. My hope would be to help foster and develop those opportunities, those facilities, those avenues for people to really get over that first hurdle of having access to tools, space, and expertise here in Alberta, and in Canada broadly, to get those ideas off the ground," Gafour told Taproot.
"I think Edmonton is really capable of providing this, and it's just a matter of building up that ecosystem."
As Gafour offers knowledge and support for entrepreneurs to create new ventures and bolster existing ones, he'll be aiming to guide technologies from the idea stage to IP development while ensuring they are commercially viable.
As for Y Combinator-backed Future Fields, its co-founder and COO told Taproot that the company has lots in the works and continues to gain momentum.
"We moved into our new 14,000-square-foot lab and pilot production facility in the fall located just north of downtown and grew our team to 20," said Jalene Anderson-Baron.
"We launched our fourth product this week and have a number of exciting collaborations in the works. We're also currently fundraising our Series A, so it's a busy and exciting time for our team. We expect to double in size again before the end of the year and launch several more products."
Gafour, who moved from chief executive officer to chief product officer of Future Fields last June, said he plans to use the knowledge he gained there to build up the ecosystem and network with his team at CULT. He pointed to the expertise at CULT itself and its investments as examples of how it will be possible to grow and get companies to market quickly.
"We need to find smarter, cleaner alternatives to feed the world," Gafour explained.
"I'm a firm believer that this direction is the way to go. You'll hear comments that 'We're not there yet,' but that's the point. If we don't take the risk of executing this, then we won't get there."
You can listen to Taproot's full interview with Lejjy Gafour on our new innovation podcast, Bloom. The next episode is out on Thursday, Feb. 3.