Pioneering cultivated meat company Aleph Farms announced steps to increase its production capabilities and global impact as it gears up for the commercial launch of its first product, a cultivated thin-cut steak made with a proprietary 3D tissue engineering platform called BioFarm.
Among the first businesses to grow cultivated steaks directly from non-modified cow cells, Aleph is moving forward with its plans to feed the world while preserving the planet. To that end, it announced the acquisition of a manufacturing facility in Modi’in, Israel, and certain related assets from biotechnology company VBL Therapeutics (NASDAQ: VBLT). Additionally, Aleph has signed a deal with the world’s only commercially licensed cultivated meat manufacturer, ESCO Aster, to produce cultivated meat in Singapore.
Existing assets from VBL will be paired with a smooth technology transfer from Aleph Farms’ pilot production facility in Rehovot, Israel, to increase local output in response to the rising demand for quality protein. According to VBL CEO Dror Harats, the assets acquired by Aleph, including a state-of-the-art facility, will help unlock value and ramp up local production efficiently to support Aleph’s future growth goals.
Simultaneously, Aleph’s signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with ESCO Aster demonstrated the strong ties between the two countries and the lengths they will take to supply their citizens with slaughter-free meat. Aside from having the full regulatory approval of the Singapore government through the Singapore Food Agency, ESCO Aster holds food safety certifications (ISO 22000 and FSSC 22000) to produce cultivated meat for commercial sales and consumption at the highest safety standards. In addition, the two companies are also working with religious authorities to obtain a halal certificate for their facility to ensure it also follows the Islamic form of slaughtering animals and expands even more of the broader region.
This MOU covers the use of ESCO Aster’s manufacturing expertise in producing Aleph Farms’ cultivated meat in Singapore, helping the nation work towards its goal of “30 by 30” – the establishment of agri-food capabilities that can satisfy 30% of the island’s nutritional needs locally and sustainably by 2030. Such terms also position Singapore as a focal point for Aleph Farms’ future expansion in Southeast Asia and the broader Asia-Pacific region.
Signing of MOU with ESCO Aster. From L to R: Didier Toubia, Ambassador of Israel to Singapore, Non-Resident Ambassador of Singapore to Israel and Chairman of the Singapore Food Agency, CEO of ESCO Aster Xiangliang (XL) Lin. Image courtesy of Aleph Farms.
As an independent affiliate of Singapore’s ESCO Lifesciences Group, ESCO Aster is accelerating the alt-protein and cellular-agriculture sector thanks to internal cell-line creation capabilities, a cellular-agriculture platform, and the world’s first certified and largest commercial-scale cultivated-meat facility. It aims to bring cultivated-meat products much closer to commercial feasibility. The company is already working with several companies toward regulatory approvals and cultivated meat technologies. For example, it is helping Dutch guilt-free meat maker Meatable scale up its cultivated pork dumplings and sausages in the Asia-Pacific region.
A new steak
Aleph Co-founder and CEO Didier Toubia has been adamant about making his company’s vision a reality, ensuring the cultivated meat product close to launching provides quality nutrition to as many people as possible, slaughter-free. To do this, Aleph’s approach even encompasses groups with different diets and cultures; it has already been ruled Kosher by a leading Rabbinic authority and could soon serve other religious dietary laws, like Muslim and Hindi.
Discussing the latest moves, Toubia indicates: “Israel and Singapore are the first two markets where we intend to launch our cultivated thin-cut steak. Building up production capacity quickly in those locations while keeping capital investment lean provides a clear roadmap to scalability. Beyond Israel and Singapore, we plan on building additional strategic assets worldwide as part of our effort to bring more security and resilience to food systems.”
Aleph Farms initially expected its initial market launch to be sometime at the end of 2022; however, regulatory approvals have delayed that decision. In the meantime, the firm has already unveiled a prototype of its first commercially cultivated steak product, laying the foundation for a soft launch. Last November, it showed a steak grown directly from non-GMO cells of a happily living cow, which is expected to cost the same as a conventionally sourced steak. This latest prototype is more sophisticated than the proof-of-concept shared in 2018, significantly since Aleph has increased the size of its slaughter-free steaks and adapted its automated bioprocesses to ensure economic viability in large-scale production.
Let’s skip the cow
Established in 2017, this Rehovot headquartered business raised over $131 million in funding from more than 20 investors, including Leonardo DiCaprio. As part of its ongoing growth strategy, early in 2022, Aleph opened a 65,000-square-foot facility located at the Stratasys building in Rehovot and is growing its portfolio of cultivated meats by adding a new product line of cell-cultured collagen (coming to market in 2024) derived from the cells of living cows and eliminating the need to slaughter animals for its production.
By working closely with regulatory agencies worldwide, Aleph is preparing to feed millions. To simplify things, the company claims that from a single fertilized egg, it can grow thousands of tons of cultivated meat, serving as part of a just and inclusive transition to sustainable and secure food systems. Although one of the biggest challenges of the cultivated meat sector has been the inability to produce large quantities to compete with conventional meat industry pricing cost-efficiently, Aleph Farms hopes to prove its large-scale, patented production process that relies on 3D printing technology is up to the test.