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

The New New Harvest

Published July 21, 2022 | Updated October 27, 2023 | Isha Datar

Over a month ago, our Executive Director called an Emergency Town Hall to discuss the future of New Harvest given a dwindling runway. The following newsletter update was sent out to share the enormous fundraise that arose from that call for help and the steps the organization pursued to ensure its impact going forward.

Dear New Harvest Community,

On June 1 we rang the alarm.

We would be out of money October 31, 2022, and that we needed all the help we could get to keep New Harvest’s vision in motion.

We didn’t know what this radical display of vulnerability might lead to: Would we be criticized for being too bold in spending on research? Would we lose the trust of our community?

Instead, this moment of need did two things: 1) It revealed our impact—in the leadership stories of so many individuals in the cellular agriculture community; and 2) It revealed our ongoing importance—in the generous giving of dollars, services, cell lines, and profits. All of this was thrown in sharp relief at our conference later in June, where our community came together to show their support and collectively raise an astounding $1.3M.

So what’s happened since?

Thanks to the supporters who stepped up that day, we were able to extend our runway to at least one year. That extension was not without cost – we had to part ways with three incredible people from our communications and admin teams and rein in all discretionary spending. We were able to drop our burn rate from $201,209/mo to $118,500 and maintain the vast majority of our research grants and impact work in safety and infrastructure.

Our thought process in accomplishing this, was to:

  • Maximize impact at the lowest headcount – by reducing comms and admin;
  • Extend runway so we could fundamentally shift our fundraising strategy – towards more government/major foundation support, that was less market-dependent (but slower), and,
  • Amplify and leverage the expertise of our staff – by maintaining a team of scientific and food policy experts who are doing incredible on-the-ground work with moving cellular agriculture forward on the global stage with governments and institutions, and by making our comms output more focused on publications and less on social media

Perhaps you could say in the past five years or so, that the primary audience we wanted to get on board with cellular agriculture were early career scientists – people who would make up the talent pool of the field and push the frontiers of cell ag science. Now, we’re transitioning toward an audience of policymakers and institutional funders and leaders who we want on board with cellular agriculture – people who could create massive opportunities for the same early career scientists, at a much bigger scale.

It’s an overall shift for New Harvest, perhaps prompted by our own success. But I see these regular redefinitions of New Harvest as part of our role as a field building organization (more on this later…). In order to build a field, we need to evolve to focus on bringing different stakeholders at different times. For us, we started by building startups and attracting entrepreneurs/investors, transitioned towards funding researchers and attracting academic talent and follow-on funding… now we’re transitioning towards bigger wins for the field at large by leveraging our central, neutral, position.

We’re already off to the races. Our first NSF application has already been accepted into the next phase, and we’re building a killer board of directors for New Harvest Canada Inc. to set us up for success up north. We’ve got some incredible publications lined up and a whole new set of income streams to pursue. Most importantly, we have a new, energized outlook and approach to maximizing the positive impact of cellular agriculture.

I’d love to hear any questions or comments on where we’ve come and how we’ve arrived here. But for now – thank you so much for giving us the opportunity to keep evolving and being the unique organization we are.

I hope this incredible story shows that we truly could not, and can not do this without you.

Until next time,

Isha Datar

Executive Director, New Harvest

About the Authors
Isha Datar is Executive Director at New Harvest