‘We will start building bio-farms’: Clean meat company Aleph Farms talks growth ambitions

By Katy Askew

- Last updated on GMT

Israeli cellular meat start-up Aleph Farms has secured a fresh injection of capital that will enable it to bring production of “slaughter free” cultured meat to commercial scale.

Aleph uses GM- and antibiotic-free starter cells taken from an animal biopsy and grows them into “real meat cuts” in a controlled, laboratory setting. The company claims its tech is unique because it can grow all four elements of meat - muscle, fat, blood vessels and connective tissue – together.

Aleph Farms’ unique 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.

“Aleph Farms already demonstrated its ability to grow various cell types together, making a beef cut, and to ensure they form a 3D texture similar to meat. The difficulty [was] mimicking the same conditions as inside the cow for those cells to form the same tissue as they would,”​ Aleph Farms CEO and co-founder Didier Toubia told FoodNavigator.

This technology enables Aleph to grow a steak that meets consumer expectations around taste and texture, Toubia continued. “Consumers do not want to compromise on taste and we intend to create, juicy, delicious steak made of cow cells.”

The company unveiled its first minute steak late last year. The next step in the company’s business plan will be to bring production to commercial scale. “The main remaining gaps to bridge are related to scale-up and cost of commercial products,”​ Toubia revealed.

Cash for growth

In order to achieve this, Aleph Farms announced today it has raised $12 million (€10.7m) in a series A funding round. The company has secured the backing of venture capital and strategic partners.

The round was led by VisVires New Protein (VVNP), with Cargill and M-Industry, the industrial group of Swiss retailer Migros, joining as new investors. Existing stakeholders, including Israeli food maker Strauss Group, also scaled up their investment.

The company is now focused on developing its prototype into a commercial product. “The investment is intended to fund the transformation of the early prototype release last December into a commercial product meeting all the requirements of the consumers, and to complete the development of the technologies to be implemented for large-scale meat production,”​ Toubia told this publication.

Aleph’s cultured meat will grow in “large, clean bio-farm facilities”​ similar to a dairy facility, the company explained. “We will start building bio-farms to produce our meat in 2021 toward a limited launch within 3-4 years,”​ the chief executive revealed.

Beyond beef

Aleph Farms’ believes that lab grown meat comes as an important answer to the key challenges facing the meat industry and global regulators: the sustainability of meat production, antibiotic resistance and food-borne disease.

Cell based meat innovators are providing “new tools”​ to address those challenges, feed the growing world population and reduce cruelty to animals. 

Toubia said Aleph is part of a “long-term solution​”. The company started with beef but ultimately it expects to use its technology to grow other animal tissue.

“Aleph Farms is focusing first on beef because cattle [production] is the most pressing environmental issue in terms of water, land usage and GHG emission. From there, we’ll expand quickly to other mammalian meat, like lamb and pork,”​ he predicted.

The company also plans to open dialog with farmers, food and feed producers as well as regulators to ensure its products are “completely safe, healthy and properly labelled”, Toubia added.

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