Aleph Farms’ latest $105m funding round was led by consumer-focused private equity firm L Catteron and DisruptAD. It saw participation from Skyviews Life sciences and a consortium of conventional meat companies, including Thai Union, BRF and CJ CheilJedang. Existing investors VisVires New Protein, Strauss Group, Cargill, Peregrine Ventures and CPT Capital also took part.
Speaking to FoodNavigator, Aleph co-founder and CEO Didier Toubia said that the cash will be used to support the lab meat maker’s ‘large-scale global commercialisation’ plans, with an initial market launch target of 2022.
Near-term plans include scaling up manufacturing, he continued. “We are transitioning our first product to pilot production and foresee that our first pilot production facility will be operational in early 2022,” Toubia said.
Pilot capacity will provide a foundation from which to build increased volumes, he continued. “In the mid-long term, we expect to produce thousands of tons of meat per year.”
Extending into other protein platforms
Aleph currently produces thin-cut cultivated beef steaks. Funding will also be used to expand its portfolio into new proteins, the group indicated.
“Why is our first product a steak? We have a versatile production platform that enables us to produce meat from any species. Our first product is a steak and we will expand our portfolio of products to include cultivated lamb, chicken and pork,” Toubia told us.
The company decided to initially focus on steak for two reasons. Firstly, the desire to create a ‘quality products’ and, secondly, the ambition to maximise impact on the transition to a sustainable food system.
“Conventional beef involves the most resource-intensive production methods compared to other meat products and has the highest carbon footprint,” the food innovator elaborated.
An ‘inclusive’ approach to sustainable meat
Expanding its portfolio is, in part, indicative of the company’s ‘inclusive’ business model, which aims to work alongside conventional meat manufacturers to support the development of a more sustainable food system.
“We have developed an inclusive business model that includes collaboration with local stakeholders from the meat sector. We have carefully hand-picked our partners based on synergies in sustainability commitments and our core values,” Toubia explained, pointing to tie-ups with the likes of BRF and Mitsubishi.
“Our strategy is to integrate into the existing ecosystem as part of our go-to-market plans, serving as the driver of an inclusive transition of the meat sector towards sustainability and resilience. Leveraging the expertise and infrastructure of leading food and meat companies will drive a faster scale-up of cultivated meat and eventually lead to a broader positive impact. These partnerships fulfill our vision to lead the global food system transition toward a more sustainable, equitable, and secure world.
“We have announced MoUs with Mitsubishi Corporation in Japan and BRF in Brazil, in a step that will accelerate these countries’ goals of becoming robust, food self-sufficient and climate-neutral global leaders. Cargill and M-Industry–the industrial group of Migros are also investors in the company.”
Regulatory hurdles remain... But Aleph sees progress
Aleph Farms’ thin-cut steaks will be available to diners by the end of 2022, pending regulatory approval.
The company ‘values’ regulators as partners that help build consumer trust, a key issue in emerging technology platforms like cultured meat, the chief executive said.
“Regulatory agencies around the world encourage innovation and have been engaging in transparent dialogues with cultivated meat companies, including Aleph Farms, since early stages – both in product and process development.
“The regulatory review of each product and production process goes through a different framework based on the regulatory pathways formalized by each specific country/region. It is a learning process for both cultivated meat companies and regulatory agencies.”
The first regulatory approval of cultivated meat as an ingredient has been issued by the Singapore Food Agency. This ‘demonstrates that cultivated meat has become a reality quicker than many might have thought’, Toubia suggested.
He believes that the regulatory path to market is becoming clearer: “It is not a long-term vision anymore, but rather a practical solution to some of our most urgent issues today associated with food production. This milestone represents the on-going process of bringing cultivated meat products to global markets.”