Meat of the future
"Our artificial meat will be cheaper than beef"
Alexander Noskov, Hi-tech+
The startup Future Meat has developed a technique with which it is possible to grow 10 times more meat than in conventional bioreactors. Funding has been received, the first production line is being installed now. And by 2022, the food industry will change forever, the founders promise.
The current producers of artificial meat can be divided into two camps: some make an imitation of plant components, others hone the technology of growing cells in a bioreactor, getting real meat without the need to raise and slaughter livestock and associated greenhouse gas emissions. The leaders among the first are Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, and the most famous startups from the second camp are Memphis Meats, Aleph Farms, Higher Steaks, Mosa Meat and Meatable. But an ambitious newcomer – the Future Meat company founded last year – intends to turn the market around in the most understandable way: to make meat cheaper than it costs to grow it now.
The company received $14 million in a new round of financing and is already equipping the first production lines – vats with a magic solution that increases the efficiency of the bioreactor by an order of magnitude.
The founder of the startup and scientific director Yakov Namias told TechCrunch about how it works.
Two components of ordinary meat – muscle fibers and fat cells – are grown in FM reactors from undifferentiated fibroblast cells, the development of which can be directed along a certain path with the help of small molecules. Also used are a few Chinese hamster ovarian cells (CHO), which are already widely used in biological and medical research and commercial production of therapeutic proteins.
Know-how is the solution in which this meat grows. Usually, the growth of cells outside the body is limited by their own toxins. "We have a special solution to remove toxins from the environment, which allows the cells to continue to grow," says Namias. – In fact, this is a new bioreactor design... with an 80% yield. That is, for every liter of medium, you will get not 100 grams of biomass, but 800 grams."
The second important advantage is that there is no need to build a factory worth $100 million to organize production.
In one reactor the size of a refrigerator, you can grow half a ton of meat and fat in a couple of weeks. And for a month – the approximate equivalent of meat that two cows give. And they need to be raised from a year to 18 months.
Namias says that Future Meat will work with manufacturers, supplying them with products and reagents, and not with supermarkets. The most important advantage of the reactor is efficiency, which means a low price. According to Namias' calculations, the cost of manufacturing a pound of meat biomass already on the pilot line will be around $ 10, and if vegetable components are added to the finished product – about $ 4. This is less than the cost of a kilogram of beef in the United States or Russia.
"You grow meat or fat of a certain type of animal. Namias says. – Imagine a large truck approaching this facility. These will replace the meat processing plant: biomass will be squeezed into the truck, and there may be thousands of such units. They all go to the central point, where meat is eventually obtained [when it is mixed with vegetable components]."
Namias is also confident that FM products will taste better than plant-based substitutes: fat gives meat a flavor and a characteristic taste, and it is this component that Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat lack.
Interestingly, one of the early investors in the startup is the giant of the US meat industry, Tyson Foods. And there they work with farmers according to a similar scheme – concluding contracts for the cultivation of chickens for their meat processing plants.
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