A better way to produce (clean) meat?
Interview with Didier Toubia, Aleph Farms
It sounds like science fiction: Growing your steak in a petri dish, outside of animals. However, this is exactly what Aleph Farms, a startup based in Israel, have been working on. They are not the first ones to grow clean meat outside of animals, but they are implementing new technology that could eventually lead to drastically lower production costs. Didier Toubia, CEO of Aleph Farms, will be speaking at Farm & Food 4.0 conference in Berlin, 21 January 2019. We asked him about the technology and the next step towards market-readiness.
Didier Toubia, what is Clean Meat and what differentiates your products from other clean meat manufacturers?
Didier Toubia: “Clean Meat relies on the idea that tissues grow all the time inside cows, inside chickens or fish. There is a mechanism responsible for regenerating tissues and some cells are responsible for that. We know how to isolate those cells and how to reproduce optimal conditions outside the animal in order for these cells to grow and to turn into muscle tissue under controlled conditions. We are reproducing a natural phenomenon occurring inside the cow but outside the animal under controlled conditions.
The platform Aleph Farms has developed differences from other platforms within the industry thanks to the collaboration we have with Technion, which is a research institute in the North of Israel. We have acquired the rights for a 3D tissue engineering platform originally developed for medicine for curing humans, which is about growing complex tissues made of various types of cells growing together in order to form a structure, which is similar to the original tissue.
Thanks to that technology, we are able to reproduce meat which has the same texture, structure and feel of conventional meat. That differentiates us from many other companies.”
When are your products ready to market and how much will consumers pay for Clean Meat?
“Aleph Farms has developed some early prototypes, some samples of meat cuts, which are very successful as R&D prototypes. We have shown that we can co-cultures, i.e. grow together up to 3 different types of cells into a 3-dimensional structure, which has the same texture as a steak, which is a real meat tissue. It will take us at least two more years to complete the actual R&D, the development of the first product and probably one to two more years in order to move the product to production.
Initially, Clean Meat - or cell-based meat - will be more expensive compared to conventional meat, but the cost will go down very quickly with scale-up. By the time the quantity increases, the price will go down exponentially.
We anticipate that within 3-5 years from launch, the cost of Clean Meat will go down and below the cost of conventional meat. Just because the process is much more efficient and effective in terms of resources and time, and having no waste at all in the end product.”
Will Cultured Meat replace farmed meat or will it offer an additional choice to the consumer?
“At Aleph Farms, we believe that cultured meat should be a different and new category of meat products within the industry and not a substitute to conventional meat. We don’t believe in grown or cell-based meat competing head to head with farmed meat. It should rather be positioned as a different product with a different and unique set of attributes which should make it a preferred option for some of the consumers.”
What are the drivers that will make consumers choose cultured meat?
“The advantages of cultured meat on the one hand is the ability to refine or to impact the nutritional profile of meat. Today, the main driver for consumers to reduce the consumption of meat is the consensus that meat might not be as healthy as the alternatives. The other unique attribute of Clean Meat will be focused on food safety, meaning zero contamination and full traceability.”
How important is the Farm & Food 4.0 Conference for you and what do you expect from your participation?
“Farm & Food 4.0 is important to us because it is a way to interact with farmers on one hand and with food technologies on the other hand. We see Clean Meat as part of a new method for positioning animal products. Cellular agriculture is part of agriculture and of the industry of farming.
We believe there is a better way to produce food - and farmers should be involved in this. Farmers have always been keen to embrace new technologies to improve production processes and end products. For us, the conference is an opportunity to develop the network and the relationship with farmers.”
Meet thought leader Didier Toubia at Farm & Food 4.0 in Berlin.