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Ashley Beckwith

Founder & CEO, FORAY bioscience
Startup Project

FORAY bioscience


Growing plant material in the laboratory as an alternative to deforestation.


Advanced Manufacturing, Biotech & Life Sciences


MIT Department of Mechanical Engineering, Draper Labs

“You’ve likely seen with your own eyes that our forest resources are being displaced, driven by factors like fires, land-use change, or forest product sourcing. Today, we’re seeing global forest shrinkage at alarming rates. FORAY’s mission is to reduce demands on our forest supplies by more efficiently producing wood-derived products and materials using alternative technologies.”

Planting the Seed: The Start of FORAY

"When I was a kid, I watched as the forest in our backyard was torn down to make room for a new housing development. I felt powerless and that experience really sensitized me to the impacts of human activities on our forests.

Today our forests are shrinking at an alarming rate, yet trees remain vital to maintaining our planet’s well-being and our economy. As these resources shrink, the proportional impacts of our activities become increasingly significant on the remaining forest supplies and the wider environment. That’s why it’s important that we utilize tree sources as strategically as possible. FORAY is developing technologies that will enable us to source wood-derived products and materials more efficiently, without harvesting or processing trees."

The Intersection of Biomaterials and Mechanical Engineering

"I am a mechanical and biomedical engineer by training. I’ve been working at the interface of cell culture, biomaterials, and manufacturing for a while now. I was initially focused on medical applications, but at the start of my Ph.D., I pivoted to plant cell culture and plant-based materials development.

My journey has involved a lot of self-directed learning on plant cell culture. My advisors and I were all new to the space, so my new focus required a lot of legwork to develop the basic knowledge and techniques that are easily accessible if you already work in the field.

It’s interesting to operate at the interface of these disciplines. It gives us the opportunity to take knowledge from one area and apply it somewhere else where people may not be thinking about things in the same way. That’s where I’ve enjoyed operating for the last decade or so of my professional career."

Growing Roots within the Entrepreneurial Ecosystem

"I hadn’t considered entrepreneurship as a path for me, but I cared a lot about this project and I wanted to see it continue. Being the oddball in a lab that traditionally focuses on other fields of research, I knew that if I left and dropped the project, it may never get picked back up. I was motivated to continue the work in some capacity, but I wasn’t initially sure how.

This passion led me to the Nucleate Eco program where I began to learn the ropes of building a company. With that early momentum, my business partner that I met during Nucleate and I decided to continue our efforts and start a company. We then spent the following months refining our model and joined the Engine’s Blueprint program to drive this idea forward."

Transitioning from the Academic Mindset to the Founder Mindset

"Understanding the big picture problem of deforestation, and identifying promising solutions using our technology, has required a thoughtful iteration process and countless discussions with people across the academic and entrepreneurial spaces. Even now, it’s something that we constantly revisit; we have a problem that we want to solve and we have this flexible technological solution. Now we need to know: how do we make these two meet in the most impactful way? Blueprint was valuable in helping me begin to understand this question and better evaluate the possibility of being a founder.

There are so many unknowns on this journey. Trying to do it in isolation would be incredibly challenging, if not impossible. It has been invaluable being surrounded by a community of like minded folks like that during Blueprint and having a network of people that have walked these steps before. As a founder, there’s still so much that I don’t know. A lot of the time, I don’t even know what I don’t know, but I do know that I have a community willing to help me figure that out."