While the Impossible Burger is taking on the world of beef Whoppers by storm and sorts of vegetable or insect-derived solutions are cropping up to give vegans and our future selves an alternative to meat, an Israeli company has just secured $12 million to grow real beef in the lab. Like Evogene which is growing tiny plants to hybridize them faster, Aleph is still only growing steaks big enough for Lilliputians but with the right R&D the company hopes to scale.
It’s been about five years since we heard about the first lab-grown hamburger. Since researchers have been able to dramatically improve upon the process of growing meat. What they haven’t been able to do well is to copy the texture and structure of the specific cuts you’d find at a butcher, like a steak.
This is what Aleph claims to have done. The company managed this using a bio-engineering platform from theTechnion – Israel Institute of Technology. The steak in the video below took a few weeks to grow and it cost about $50.
Aleph Farms is co-founded by The Kitchen Hub. Among the investors in a new $12 million round is VisVires New Protein (VVNP), Singapore; with Cargill, USA; and M-Industry – the industrial group of Migros, Switzerland, as new investors. Existing investors also joining this round include Strauss Group, Israel; Peregrine Ventures, Israel; CPT Capital, UK; Jesselson investments, Israel; New Crop Capital, USA and Technion Investment Opportunity Fund, Israel.
Aleph Farms’ unique non-GMO technology, co-developed with Professor Shulamit Levenberg of the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, relies on a natural process occurring in cows to regenerate and build muscle tissues.
The company discovered a way to isolate the cells responsible for that process and grow them outside of the animal to form the same muscle tissue typical to steaks. Consumers are not willing to compromise on taste, which is the driving force behind this startup’s goal to create, juicy, delicious steaks without harm to animals or the environment.
The injection of capital will allow Aleph Farms to accelerate product development of its slaughter-free meat and to transform Aleph’s prototype (released last December) into a commercial product. Its cultured meat will grow in large, clean bio-farm facilities similar to a dairy facility.
“This round has been highly successful and includes diverse food companies and VCs from multiple regions around the world,” says Matthieu Vermersch, Founder and Managing Partner of VisVires New Protein. “This is a vote of confidence in Aleph Farms’ leading 3D technology and its capabilities for growing real beef steaks. Strategic partners from the food industry are important because we need to build a sustainable ecosystem for cultured meat.”
Key concerns of the meat industry and regulators include sustainability of meat production, antibiotics resistance, and food-borne illnesses. Aleph Farms and other cell-based meat startups are providing new tools to address those challenges and to feed the growing world population without harming any animals.
“We will be part of the long-term solution,” declares Didier Toubia, Co-Founder and CEO of Aleph Farms. “We intend to lead an open dialog with farmers and food and feed producers. In addition, we continue to work closely with the regulators to ensure our products will be completely safe, healthy and properly labelled. We welcome the collaboration with the USDA and FDA as an opportunity to promote transparency and build trust with all stakeholders.”
Die-hard environmentalists may not be for this solution and will suggest we just cut back on our appetite for meat. That if we want to eat healthfully and heartily (and biodynamically!) we should raise our own meat from farm to table, eat all parts, or be brave like my girlfriends Kari and Raven; and friends Randy and Dave in Northern, Ontario and just hunt for our own food. Simply to stay away from anything engineered in any way, including complicated vegan cheeses and what have you.
According to Jewish Law hunting is not permitted so kosher meat, might need to evolve into the lab. Who knows.
I feel growing meat in a lab is much like growing food using hydroponics. It’s a good solution for the interim (as we flail and people starve in some parts of the world) but where we are going is to regenerative, biodynamic agriculture where are parts feed into the whole.