Global agriculture — livestock production in particular — is one of the most harmful industries for the planet, contributing to deforestation, draining of resources, and massive greenhouse gas emissions. And yet people want to eat meat. We can’t convince the whole world to switch to a plant-based diet. A solution? Cell-based, lab-grown, slaughter-free meat.
Aleph Farms is a startup growing real meat from cow cells, using the same natural regenerative process that cows use to rebuild muscle tissue. The meat is grown in bio-farms and developed to have the same texture and taste as a traditional steak. Co-founded in 2017 by The Kitchen, an Israeli food-tech investment group, Aleph Farms is flourishing after raising $12 million in a funding round in May this year. Curious to learn more, we spoke with Didier Toubia, CEO of Aleph Farms, about the company’s clean-meat mission, innovative process, and plans for the future.
Why are you passionate about developing cell-based meat?
We are so passionate about what we do because we see cultivated meat/concept as an important step forward in addressing key challenges associated with meat production today. We believe that cultivated meat will be a large part of the solution on the long term.
Our main goal is to provide a better legacy for future generations. In the light of society’s continued desire to eat animal protein, the world population growth and the depletion of environmental resources, we believe that we develop a solution that not only bridges this gap in supply-demand but also mitigates the negative environmental effects and solves the public health and ethical issues, associated with conventional meat production to date.
Can you explain a bit about the process and technology Aleph Farms is using to develop cell-based meat?
Our unique technology, co-developed with Prof. Levenberg from the Technion, relies on a natural process occurring in cows — as in humans — to regenerate and build muscle tissue. We found a way to isolate the cells responsible for that process and grow them in the same conditions as inside the cow, to form the same muscle tissue, which is meat. Our meat will grow in bio-farms: large and clean facilities with tanks similar to dairy facilities, in a process that is fully controlled and traceable.
We can compare the process of growing cultivated meat with the process of growing hydroponic fruits and vegetables: same seed, same end-product, improved growing process.
How much does your meat substitute cost in comparison to traditional meat?
We expect the first products to be slightly more expensive than conventional meat, same as any new products on the market today. Our aim is to get the price range to parity within a few years from launch.
The current cost of our minute steak is $50 and will continue to come down as the production process will move from the lab to a scalable commercial facility named bio-farms.
What are your target markets?
Our target markets are the US, Western Europe, and Asia.
What are some of the advantages or disadvantages of a cell-based meat substitute?
Imagine the same meat — same experience, same taste — but without killing animals, and without any use of antibiotics and minimal risk for foodborne illnesses and contamination. Consumers are craving for real steaks and we intend to provide them a juicy, tasty and high-quality steaks that are healthy for them and for the environment.
How did you source your funding as a startup? Which VCs or companies have invested in Aleph Farms?
In May 2019, we announced a funding round of US$12M in series A investments. This new influx of support includes a blend of classic venture capitalists and strategic partners. It was led by VisVires New Protein (VVNP), Singapore; with Cargill Protein, 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.
Where do you see Aleph Farms in the next few years?
In the next few years, we will continue to put our efforts into research and development of our product along with our scale-up process. We will continue to focus on making our vision a reality by providing consumers a meat product which is high-quality, healthy, sustainable, and ethical.