Israeli clean meat startup Aleph Farms, which unveiled the world’s first slaughter-free steak grown from animal cells in late 2018, is looking to take its lab-grown meat production off-world.
The Israeli company has already experimented with meat production in space, producing slaughter-free steak at the International Space Station last year. The initiative was a bid to demonstrate its mission to provide sustainable food security on Earth and beyond, by producing meat regardless of the availability of land and local water resources.
Now, Aleph Farms is announcing a new program called Aleph Zero to advance food security by producing fresh meat anywhere, independent of climate change and natural resources, and to introduce new capabilities for producing fresh meat even in the harshest, most remote environments like space. If successful, the program could launch extraterrestrial food production, one of the main barriers for long-term space missions.
The startup said it is working to secure strategic partnerships with technology companies and space agencies for long-term collaborative research and development contracts “that will ensure the integration of Aleph Farms’ innovations into leading space programs.”
Such programs will leverage the company’s deep-rooted know-how in cell biology, tissue engineering, and food science to establish Aleph’s BioFarms in extraterrestrial environments, allowing the company to eventually apply the lessons learned in space back on Earth.
“The constraints imposed by deep-space-exploration—the cold, thin environment and the circular approach—force us to tighten the efficiency of our meat production process to much higher sustainability standards,” explains Aleph Farms co-founder and CEO Didier Toubia.
“The program ‘Aleph Zero’ reflects our mission of producing quality, delicious meat locally where people live and consume it, even in the most remote places on Earth like the Sahara Desert or Antarctica, providing unconditional access to high-quality nutrition to anyone, anytime, anywhere,” added Toubia. “When people will live on the moon or Mars, Aleph Farms will be there as well.”
Toubia noted that the program’s name, Aleph Zero, represents the mathematical symbol of the smallest infinite number and the company’s vision for producing meat with near-zero natural resources.
The company hope to build its first BioFarm by next year.
Toubia co-founded Aleph Farms in 2017 with Shulamit Levenberg as part of a collaboration between Israeli food tech incubator The Kitchen, and the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology. The startup says its 3D technology enables it to mimic traditional cuts of beef in both structure and texture, but without the huge environmental impact, the heavy resource requirements, or its contribution to climate change.
Aleph Farms’ method to produce cultivated beef steaks relies on mimicking a natural process of muscle-tissue regeneration occurring inside the cow’s body, but under controlled conditions. The startup says it implements a combination of six unique technologies that allow it to drop the production costs of the meat, including innovative approaches to an animal-free growth medium to nourish the cells and bioreactors—the tanks in which the tissue grows.
The company hopes to start pilot production of its GMO-free, slaughter-free products in 2021, with a planned commercial launch by the end of 2022.
This article first appeared in NoCamels, which covers innovations from Israel for a global audience.