Space meat: Giant leap for Aleph Farms as slaughter-free space station experiment takes off
08 Oct 2019 --- Taking the evolution of lab-grown meat to new heights, Aleph Farms is pushing food innovation boundaries following the completion of its first slaughter-free meat experiment in space. The Israel-based food company that grows cultivated beef steaks has produced meat on the International Space Station, 248 miles (339km) away from any natural resources. “This is a milestone that demonstrates our capability of producing slaughter-free meat anywhere,” declares the company, which is gaining ground as a pioneering cultured meat innovator.
Speaking with FoodIngredientsFirst during the second day of the Anuga tradeshow in Cologne, Aleph Co-Founder and CEO Didier Toubia, says his company, best known for introducing a lab-grown minute steak, is challenging the notion that meat can be produced anywhere – literally.
Finding ways of producing food with limited resources is crucial. The world is in the grip of a climate change crisis which is propelling disruptive businesses within the food and beverage industry to respond to feeding the world’s ballooning population, while trying to tackle the rapid onset of global warming and its impact on food production and security.
“We can produce meat with as little resources as possible. In space, you have no resources – you are disconnected from natural water and land. This shows that cultivated meat can be a solution for preserving natural resources and reversing the climate change effects of factory farming. We can make meat for anybody, anytime, anywhere,” Toubia explains.
“Cultivated meat can also be a solution to food waste. The reason why we throw away 30 percent of our food and 900 million people are suffering from malnutrition is because the food is not produced where and when it is needed for people to eat, so it gets spoilt. We can change that, by making food anytime, anywhere. We can reduce the amount of food produced while still feeding the whole population because we won't have the waste. That is why this experiment is important.”
Toubia explains that the total process takes approximately three weeks in space and this first experiment was just one step toward “making meat from A to Z” in microgravity conditions.
A successful proof of concept has been established on the Russian segment of the International Space Station (ISS), in assembling a small-scale muscle tissue in a 3D bioprinter developed by 3D Bioprinting Solutions, under microgravity conditions.
This cutting-edge research in some of the most extreme environments imaginable serves as an essential growth indicator of sustainable food production methods that don’t exacerbate land waste, water waste and pollution. Sustainability is driving food innovators to come up with increasingly novel and exciting methods to tackle the food of the future.
Speaking specifically about how the findings of the experiment might be used, Toubia says the pilot is part of developing more advanced technologies that use fewer resources.
“It’s also about becoming more competitive in the marketplace to make sure that we are always one or two technologies ahead,” he notes. “We believe that cultivated meat will be transferred into biofarms on earth, which will be automated, so the costs will go down and use much fewer resources than conventional meat – it should be cheaper to produce in the long term. Probably three to four years from now.”
Aleph Farms collaborated with 3D Bioprinting Solutions (Russia), which develops implementations of 3D bioprinting technologies, Meal Source Technologies (US) and Finless Foods (US) on the experiment.
Moving away from conventional farming methods
Innovation in the slaughter-free space – including lab-grown meat, seafood and fish – as well as a boom in meat-free alternatives and plant-based proteins is presenting a myriad of opportunities.
These are further driven following last year’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report which emphasized the integral contribution of the conventional animal farming methods on climate change. The 107 authors who contributed to the report shed light on climate change effects on land, especially desertification, land degradation, and diminishing availability of food supplies.
“In space, we don’t have 10.000 or 15.000 liters (3962.58 gallons) of water available to produce one kilogram (2.205 pounds) of beef,” continues Toubia. “This joint experiment marks a significant first step toward achieving our vision to ensure food security for generations to come, while preserving our natural resources.”
“The mission of providing access to high-quality nutrition anytime, anywhere in a sustainable way is an increasing challenge for all humans,” adds Jonathan Berger, CEO of The Kitchen. “On Earth or up above, we count on innovators like Aleph Farms to take the initiative to provide solutions to some of the world’s most pressing problems, such as the climate crisis.”
Plant-based innovation and NPD
As the plant-based industry continues to grow rapidly, the foodservice sectors are also tapping in to the demands of adventurous consumers looking for meat-free options when dining out. Restaurants and pubs are turning to meat-alternatives to bolster the menu and add real and varied choices for those looking to reduce meat consumption, rather than just having the one veggie/vegan option.
Aleph Farm’s Microgravity meat experiment comes at the same time as British food company, The Meatless Farm Co, has launched its plant-based burgers in the JD Wetherspoon pub chain across the UK, another demonstration of the rise in popularity of meat-free products.
By Gaynor Selby, with additional reporting from Laxmi Haigh at Anuga 2019
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