Israeli start-up successfully grows slaughter-free beef... in space

"This joint experiment marks a significant first step toward achieving our vision to ensure food security for generations to come, while preserving our natural resources."

By
October 10, 2019 14:32
2 minute read.
Employee holds a container with lab-grown steak as she works in a Aleph Farms lab in Israel

Employee holds a container with lab-grown steak as she works in a laboratory at Aleph Farms in Rehovot, Israel. (photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)

Seemingly not satisfied with simply producing the world's first cell-grown minute steak, Israeli food-tech company Aleph Farms has announced the successful cultivation of meat aboard the International Space Station (ISS).

Describing the achievement as "an essential growth indicator of sustainable food production methods," the cultured-meat technology developed by the Ashdod-based start-up aims to reduce reliance on vast stretches of land, water, feed, antibiotics and other resources typically associated with traditional agriculture.

Grown from a few cells extracted painlessly from a living cow, Aleph Farms' laboratory-cultivation method mimics the natural process of muscle-tissue regeneration occurring inside the cow's body, under controlled conditions.

Once cells are extracted from the animal, they must be nourished and grown to produce a complex matrix replicating bovine muscle tissue.

The experiment, the company said this week, was carried out on September 26 in the Russian segment of the ISS by experienced cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka.

The proof of concept was established by assembling a small-scale muscle tissue in a three-dimensional bioprinter developed by Russian company 3D Bioprinting Solutions.

"In space, we don't have 10,000 or 15,000 liters of water available to produce one kilogram of beef," said Aleph Farms co-founder and CEO Didier Toubia.

"This joint experiment marks a significant first step toward achieving our vision to ensure food security for generations to come, while preserving our natural resources," he said. "This keystone of human achievement in space follows Yuri Gagarin's success of becoming the first man to journey into outer space, and Neil Armstrong's 50th anniversary this year, celebrating the moment when the first man walked on space."

Co-founded in 2017 by Israeli food-tech incubator The Kitchen, part of Strauss Group, and the Technion, Aleph Farms – which secured a $12 million Series A investment round in May – says it has combined six unique technologies enabling the company to lower the production costs of the meat. These include innovative approaches related to an animal-free growth medium to nourish the cells and bioreactors – the tanks in which the meat tissue grows.

"The mission of providing access to high-quality nutrition anytime, anywhere in a sustainable way is an increasing challenge for all humans," said Jonathan Berger, CEO of The Kitchen.

"On Earth or up above, we count on innovators like Aleph Farms to take the initiative to provide solutions to some of the world's most pressing problems, such as the climate crisis."

Consumers eager to taste cultivated meat grown by the company and its competitors will need to remain patient.

Lab-grown products are unlikely to hit the supermarket shelves for at least several years as companies develop cost-effective production methods and likely encounter regulatory barriers.


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