Cultivated meat players race to commercialization by overcoming critical cost and scaling challenges
03 Mar 2023 --- This week has seen several developments in the cultivated meat space promising to drive scalability, considered one of the biggest roadblocks holding back mass production and commercialization of cell-based meat.
Ever After Foods (rebranded from Plurinuva) has launched what it hails as a scalable platform for the cost-effective production of cultivated meat products.
Netherlands-based Mosa Meat, the original creators of the first cell-based hamburger, has struck a deal to optimize cell feed. Israeli innovator Aleph Farms is set to increase production capacities by acquiring VBL Therapeutics Facility and a partnership with ESCO Aster.
In addition, Triplebar and Umami Meats are starting a technology collaboration to optimize cell lines for sustainable seafood.
Cell-based regulatory landscape
Several changes in the regulatory landscape are rapidly pushing cell-based product commercialization forward. The market needs to scale production in preparation for global availability and industry needs to figure out how to make a lot more of it.
last November, saw Upside Foods become the first company in the world to receive a “No Questions” letter for cultivated meat, poultry, or seafood, which means the government food agency accepts Upside’s conclusion that its cultivated chicken is safe to eat.There has been recent progress with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) which
Meanwhile, Singapore demonstrated why it’s striding ahead in the regulatory landscape with a recent milestone – approval of Good Meat’s use of serum-free media to produce lab-grown chicken for human consumption.
The Singapore Food Agency’s approval advances the country’s trailblazing support for cell-based meat, leaving the US and Europe catching up on the regulatory front.
What will scalability achieve?
Scalability is the primary challenge facing the cultivated meat industry, and the inability to efficiently produce cultivated meat at scale translates to incredibly high costs for consumers as well, Eyal Rosenthal, CEO of Ever After Foods, tells FoodIngredientsFirst.
“Lab-scale production volumes and efficiencies are entirely different from the reality of large-scale systems, so as the industry matures, so must our production expectations.”
“Our proprietary bioreactor technology supports the growth of extremely high densities of cultivated meat at incredibly large scales. Producing high densities of cultivated meat demands disruptive technology and engineering, as increasing viscosity and shear stress limits productivity and scale,” he continues.
“Current cultivated meat players utilize suspension technology for cell processing. While that type of technology is commonly used by the pharma industry, it is not suitable for growing meat at scale.”
The proprietary packed-bed bioreactor solution enables a high solid-to-liquid ratio to ensure higher productivity. “We can achieve cost parity at lower scales with fewer resources, thereby increasing any sized bioreactor productivity by over 700%,” Rosenthal adds.
Ever After Foods is backed by the Tnuva Group, Israel’s largest food producer.
Aleph making advancements
Israel-based Aleph Farms is also working closely with international regulatory agencies as it prepares for the commercial launch of its first product, a fine-cut farmed filet. The company also plans to produce different cuts of filets and other animal cell-based products, such as cultured collagen, through additional proprietary capabilities.
From a single fertilized egg, Aleph Farms can produce thousands of tons of cultured meat that serve as part of a just and inclusive transition to sustainable and secure food systems.
Aleph Farms is the first company to produce steaks grown directly from unmodified cow cells; it has acquired manufacturing facilities in Modi’in, Israel, and certain related assets from biotech company VBL Therapeutics (VBLT).
“Israel and Singapore are the first two markets where we are trying to launch our farmed, fine-cut steak. By rapidly increasing production capacity at those sites while maintaining a simple capital investment, it provides a clear roadmap for scalability,” says Didier Toubia, Aleph Farms CEO.
“Beyond Israel and Singapore, we plan to build more strategic assets around the world as part of our effort to make food systems more secure and resilient.”
Bringing down costs in cell feed
Optimizing cell feed is another key challenge facing the cultivated meat industry, possibly hindering it from reaching the commercialization stage.
Mosa Meat and Nutreco have been working together to bring down the costs of cell feed, signing a new agreement earlier this week geared toward creating a cell feed supply chain.
Scientists at the companies have also confirmed that a basal media (cell feed) formulated with food-grade ingredients instead of pharma-grade ones performs equally well at a substantially lower cost – a critical step to further develop the cellular agriculture supply chain.
Mosa Meat scientists also confirmed that food-grade components in the serum-free cell feed had successfully replaced 99.2% of the basal media by weight.
“Our partnership with Nutreco represents our commitment to further develop the cellular agriculture supply chain and bring down costs,” explains Maarten Bosch, CEO of Mosa Meat.
“Our scientific results are an industry first, proving that food-grade ingredients perform equivalent to pharma-grade in cell feed. This will represent a significant cost savings as we scale up production.”
The collaboration “masters a crucial step” in creating affordable, food-safe, and scalable nutritional solutions for the cultivated meat industry,” adds Susanne Wiegel, head of the Alternative Protein Programme at Nutreco.
Back at Ever After Foods, Rosenthal stresses that cultivated meat viability was proven a decade ago, but no one has been able to prove that its production can scale. “As other cultivated meat players all rely on technology that is not suitable for growing tissues at production scale, we needed to rethink the entire approach,” he says.
“Scalability and cost are the major hurdles for the market viability of cultivated meat, so solving them will open the door for the mass adoption of cultivated meat products.”
“There is still a lot to be done before cultivated meat products will be available globally in mass scale – from overcoming the tech challenges and costs to creating production facilities and managing regulatory hurdles. However, I expect cultivated meat to be available on a global scale within the next five years,” Rosenthal outlines.
Sustainable cell-based seafood
California-based Triplebar and Singapore-headquartered Umami Meats have joined forces to improve the fitness and performance of cell lines to enable lower-cost, more efficient production of cultivated foods.
The shared goal is to reduce the cost of high-quality foods, reduce supply-chain risks in the global fishing and aquaculture industry, and relieve pressure on depleted fish stocks in the world’s oceans.
Their first project is to produce cell-based Japanese eel.
By Gaynor Selby
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