Announcing our bold, new campaign: "Cellular Agriculture for the Public Good."

How to Become a Leader in Cellular Agriculture

Cellular agriculture is a nascent field; there is a vast void of leadership stories yet to be told.

Published September 15, 2022 | Updated September 15, 2022 | Isha Datar

Earlier this year I had the opportunity to speak at Cultivate Tomorrow* about ethics in cellular agriculture, a critical topic for the field.

During the panel discussion, a student named Armaan asked a question that struck me and has stuck with me all year:

It struck me because I felt the answer was obvious – that absolutely yes, the individual is crucial. Cellular agriculture is still a nascent field, so every individual that takes a risk on gearing their career towards it helps it grow. 

But I could see how a student may not know that – I had the chance to see the number of individuals grow from less than 5 to hundreds (thousands?) of people over the past nine years. To someone new to the field, it might feel like it is “too late” for an individual to make a difference.

This blogpost is being written to say, with conviction, that it is not too late for an individual to make a difference, and in some ways, the individual is more important than ever.

Empowering emerging leaders

In our strategic plan we set a goal to empower 100 individuals towards leadership roles in cellular agriculture within five years.

The dream of all non-profits is sustained impact. We believe people, rather than ideas or intellectual property, are at the heart of creating change. Projects, ideas, and initiatives come and go; what continues is an individual’s drive to make a difference in the world through their knowledge and experiences. 

This is why we choose to fund and partner with individuals who are “not only brave enough to reimagine the future, but brave enough to try.” 

At the core of each of our programs and projects are individuals who we believe will spark growth and change in cellular agriculture. By focusing on individuals, we are building a community of leaders united by our mission and strengthened by our differences.

What is a leader in cellular agriculture? To New Harvest, leaders aren’t just C-suite executives or principal investigators or executive directors.

What is a leader?

A leader is a person who fortifies and advances the field. Who takes the field into places it wouldn’t go otherwise.

A leader is a person you will follow to a place you wouldn’t go by yourself**

A leader might be someone who brought a new voice, perspective, or expertise to the field, stretching the field into new, uncharted terrain – like bringing AI, risk assessment, food safety, land management, or Indigenous engagement within the purview of cellular agriculture.

Or maybe they are someone who facilitated new conversations by bringing people together – like hosting events or podcasts, starting discussion or working groups, or raising difficult topics on social media.

An industry flourishes with a robust mix of expertise, perspectives, and voices. By being a “100 Leader Bioreactor” we hope to equip and empower individuals to uniquely add value to the cellular agriculture ecosystem.

How to become a leader

So, how do you become a leader in cellular agriculture today? Here’s what I suggest:

  1. Create a vision for the future. What needs to change about the status quo?
  2. Focus on something neglected. The field is not very diverse today – it is populated primarily by start-ups and entrepreneurs in Western countries. What ideas are missing? Whose voices aren’t being heard? What concepts aren’t being considered? What needs to be done that Western-context companies can’t/won’t do?
  3. Get connected. Reach out to us! Tell us what you think is missing, what you need, and how we can help. No leader emerges from a vacuum.

For some, LEADER is a big, scary word. But for us, a leader is really just anyone brave enough to make a difference in this field. You don’t have to be a co-founder or some award-winning scientist. The field is propelled by a collection of leadership stories—small and large—that together advance the development and maturation of the field.

The field needs leadership in all of its forms. All it takes is someone stepping up to the plate.

Do you have a story to tell about how New Harvest empowered your leadership journey in cellular agriculture? If so, tell us!


*Cultivate Tomorrow is an incredibly well-run student-organized cell ag hackathon!!
**Joel Barker

About the Authors
Isha Datar is Executive Director at New Harvest