The Israeli foodtech startup that 3D printed the first slaughter-free beef steak in space has raised $105 million in funding. Aleph Farms uses bioprinting technology and real cow cells, without genetic engineering and immortalization, to produce any alternative meat steak, one of the most difficult meat cuts to recreate. After several successful prototypes, the business said it is currently working with regulatory agencies to move ahead with its commercialization plans. Moreover, the new funds will help expand its product lines and technology platform ahead of an initial market launch in 2022.
The Series B investment round was led by the Growth Fund of L Catterton, a global consumer-focused private equity firm, and DisruptAD, the venture capital platform of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) ADQ sovereign wealth fund. Other backers include advisory company Skyviews Life Science and a consortium of leading global food and meat companies like Thai Union, Brazil’s BRF, and South Korea’s CJ CheilJedang. Additionally, existing investors, including VisVires New Protein, Strauss Group, Cargill, Peregrine Ventures, and CPT Capital, participated in the round.
Aleph Farms Co-Founder and CEO Didier Toubia said “this additional capital from top-tier partners with unparalleled experience and expertise brings us significantly closer to our vision of providing secure and unconditional access to high-quality nutrition to anyone, anytime, anywhere. We see our investors as partners for building this new category of meat and it was critical to us that they share our strong commitment to improving the sustainability of our global food systems.”
With the $105 million, the company wants to execute its large-scale global commercialization and portfolio expansion into new types of animal protein, scale-up manufacturing, and grow its international operations. As a strategic partner to DisruptAD, Aleph Farms will evaluate the establishment of a manufacturing facility in Abu Dhabi to supply its cultivated meat products across the UAE and the broader Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region, encompassing six Middle Eastern countries. The UAE imports around 80% of its food and heavily invests in agricultural technology solutions and sustainable practices to feed its growing population. With this in mind, DisruptAD’s investment could be key to bolster Abu Dhabi’s long-term focus on food resilience.
ADQ’s head of venture capital and technologies, Mayank Singhal, said the future of food would be built around “evolved consumer choices” and “redressal of climate concerns,” with Aleph playing a central role in shaping this agenda across global markets. This is in line with the startup’s mission. In 2017, the company founders united to address two of the most critical global concerns: food and environmental preservation. Together with its research partners at the Faculty of Biomedical Engineering at Technion Israel Institute of Technology, Aleph has successfully cultivated the world’s first slaughter-free ribeye steak with bioprinting technology.
As noted by the startup’s management team, Aleph uses its platform to print actual living cells that are then incubated to grow, differentiate, and interact to acquire the texture and qualities of a real steak. A proprietary system, similar to the vascularization that occurs naturally in tissues, enables the perfusion of nutrients across the thicker tissue and grants the steak a similar shape and structure to its native form, as found in livestock before and during cooking.
Although cultivated meat is likely to make up a major part of consumers’ future diets, a research study commissioned by Aleph shows that many people are not even familiar with the alternative product. However, once the innovative food process is described, 40% of the respondents surveyed said they were “very” or “extremely likely” to try it in the US and the UK. Based on this information, Toubia assumed that to turn this expected acceptance into actual consumption patterns over time, it is critical to developing the right products. “In the long term, Aleph Farms’ vision is to provide a better alternative to industrial livestock farming, which represents approximately 70% of global meat production today,” he revealed.
As one of the first companies to dive into the niche industry of alternative meats back in 2017, Aleph is a pioneer at growing steaks directly from the cells of cows and have revealed not only the world’s first cell-cultured thin-cut steak in 2018 but also successfully produced meat in 2019 using 3D Bioprinting Solutions’ Organ.Aut system aboard the International Space Station (ISS). The cultured meat experts will be reliving their dream of printing meat in space once more in 2022, except this time around, their experiment will target the challenge of cultivating cells in microgravity.
Aleph’s space program, Aleph Zero, builds upon its mission to produce quality meat locally, even in the most remote places on Earth with minimal natural resources, or the Moon and Mars, where the company plans to share their steaks with future explorers. Today, the leadership team hopes to develop the most advanced technology platform for cultivated meat production, even partnering with key meat producers worldwide as they prepare for global launch.