Just four months after Cherkizovo Group, one of Russia’s biggest meat producers, signed an agreement with the Skolkovo Technopark to set up an agrotech accelerator there, the company has already identified a potential unicorn among Skolkovo startups.

Sergei Polyakov, managing partner of Cherkizovo's accelerator at the Skolkovo Technopark, and Kirill Kaem, head of Skolkovo's biomed and agrotech cluster, pictured at the council meeting on Monday. Photo: Sk.ru.

The Skolkovo resident that Cherkizovo believes could be worth $1 billion or more is Artembryogen, which has developed technology that reduces the cost of producing farm animal embryos, a senior Cherkizovo manager told a meeting of the Skolkovo Foundation council on Monday evening.

“It seems we have touched a unicorn with your help,” Sergei Polyakov, CEO of Cherkizovo’s poultry division and a managing partner of the accelerator at Skolkovo, told the council meeting.

Artembryogen has developed an innovative technology for the industrial production of farm animal embryos. The technology significantly decreases the cost of producing embryos of valuable farm animals, in particular cattle. Bovine embryos currently cost from $100 to $500.

The Russian startup’s technology is cheaper than anything on the U.S. or Brazilian markets, and will enable Cherkizovo to produce cattle at a cost that is three times cheaper than its Brazilian competitors, said Polyakov.

Skolkovo Foundation president Victor Vekselberg welcomed the Cherkizovo representative, saying the foundation was very glad to have the company as a partner.

Cooperation began last year on November 25, when Skolkovo and Cherkizovo signed the deal to establish an acceleration centre. On the same day, 28 Skolkovo agrotech startups pitched their projects to Cherkizovo representatives, having been selected from 134 companies offered for initial review.  

Thirteen projects were identified for further negotiations following the pitching session. Three of those projects are currently undergoing industrial trials with Cherkizovo, one project is undergoing due diligence, and on March 16, the company signed its first deal – with Artembryogen.

Under the accelerator scheme, Skolkovo has provided physical infrastructure – a co-working space and labs for the startups – while the meat giant is offering industrial expertise and market access.

The partnership deal with Cherkizovo was the first to be signed by Skolkovo’s giant Technopark, which opened its doors at the end of last year. Monday marked the first time that the Skolkovo Foundation council had held its quarterly meeting in the Technopark.