The funding round, announced this morning and led by Growth Fund of L Catterton and DisruptAD, with participation from Skyviews Life Sciences and a consortium of food and meat companies, will help the Israeli-based startup develop new products to complement its existing portfolio.
Aleph Farms, which was founded in 2017, made a name for itself in the rapidly evolving cell-cultured meat space when in 2018 it developed the first whole cut beef steak from non-genetically modified animal cells in a process that relies on a 3D tissue engineering platform rather than animal slaughter. Earlier this year, it added cultivated ribeye steak to its portfolio – another industry first.
The company also made headlines in 2019 as the first company to cultivate meat in space – a move that underscored its sustainability mission by demonstrating its ability to create high-quality food under extreme conditions in a closed-loop system with zero waste or emissions.
The environmental impact of cell-cultured meat has come under question with some studies suggesting it may be worse for climate change, but Aleph Farms CEO Didier Toubia argues the full production process of animal-based meat must be compared to that of cultured meat. When this is done, he says, cell-cultured meat comes out on top.
Aleph Farm’s space stunt and most recent fundraise also reinforces its mission to enhance food security by producing meat locally.
“This additional capital form top-tier partners with unparalleled experience and expertise brings us significantly closer to our vision of providing secure and uncontrolled access to high-quality nutrition to anyone, anytime, anywhere,” Toubia said in a statement.
But to do this, the company must scale up production of its pilot plant or 'Biofarm,' which was begun with an infusion of $12m in series A funding and slated for completion in 2021.
As the company finetunes and scales production, it is also working with regulatory agencies for its planned 2022 launch into market – first at restaurants at cost-parity with its animal-based counterparts and then at retail.
In the US, the regulation of cell cultured meat comes under the shared purview of FDA and USDA, which are working together to establish labeling guidance and a framework to oversee cell collection, cell banks, cell growth and differentiation. While the agencies and industry are working hard to answer questions and ensure safe and seamless oversight, many details have yet to be worked out and rulemaking can take years.