May 25, 2022

Meat alternatives such as plant-based or cultured meats can have a positive impact on the environment. In optimistic scenarios, when we switch to a plant-based diet with lots of meat over the next 15 years, 61 to 68 percent of greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture could be avoided.

Except that alternative meats have a serious problem.

The Good Food Institute (GFI) estimates that alternative meat producers will need to build 800 manufacturing facilities within a decade and spend about $27 billion. To meet global demand.

To do this, farm-based and plant-based meat companies must address scientific challenges ranging from the size and efficiency of bioreactors to the high cost of growth factors used in cell-grown meat. Some startups see these scaling issues as an opportunity to gain a foothold in the meat alternative market. Instead of launching brands, these are alternative B2B protein companies developing scalable industrial production platforms. There are two companies in the Y Combinator group this year that use this model.

Mooji Meat: Fast 3D Printing of Whole Pieces

Mooji Meats, founded just 6 months ago, is in the process of raising $2.5 million in its first seed round. The company has developed a 3D printer that can produce whole cuts of meat using vegetable proteins or cultured meat cells. Co-founder Insa Mohr told gaming-updates that they are developing a 3D printed Wagyu beef piece and expect a prototype to be ready for taste testing within 6 months.

“There’s always a trade-off between scale and texture,” Mohr told gaming-updates. “3D printing is not always scalable, but creates great textures. Also, there are other technologies that scale but don’t produce good textures. Definitely not for steak. And we remove this compromise. ,

Insa Mor and Jochen Müller are the founders of Mooji Meat.

More claims that Mooji can imprint these cuts of meat by laying fat, connective tissue and muscle cells in a marbled pattern, but he did not provide details on how this is done. According to her, the main advantage of Mooji is speed. Mohr said the printhead is “250 times faster” than current 3D printers.

At this early stage, stealth is not a crime. But soon there should be evidence of the pace of this improved work. Mohr argues that the $2.5 million Mooji is currently raising should be enough for the company to land its first customer and hopes it will be a real-world proof of concept.

Micromeat: a pillar for meat companies

If you thought plant-based meats couldn’t meet demand, then that’s nothing compared to the cost of cultured meats.

Some companies claim to have at least overcome this price barrier. In December 2021, Future Meat, an Israeli meat company, recently raised a $347 million Series B round led by ADM Ventures (an astronomical jump from its $14 million Series A), which it claimed would raise the pound. . $7.70, less than half of the $18 it cost 6 months ago. But that still exceeds the cost of regular chicken by about $3 a pound.

Ann-Sophie Mertzen, founder of startup Micro Meat, told gaming-updates that most new cultured meat companies are still trying to get their businesses up and running on a large scale.

Early microscopic meat experiments showing cultured meat in dishes.

“There is no other industry where the big players are completely vertical,” she told gaming-updates. So we really believe we want to build this industry on the scale needed to feed the world. We need more B2B players.”

Micro Meet was founded in 2021 when the pandemic interrupted Merzen’s postdoctoral work at the Tec de Monterrey in Mexico. The Micromeat company is engaged in creation of a scaffold from a cellular fabric. Scaffolds are structures that facilitate the flow of nutrients and signal to cells that they are needed to form mature muscle tissue. Unstructured shredded products do not require overly complex scaffolding, but are cut like steaks.

“We can grow them” [tissue scaffolds] With similar processes that are used in the cultivated meat industry, such as, for example, biopharmaceutical reactors,” she said. “We can extend this indefinitely because now we can easily produce 100 grams per minute with our first prototype.”

The technology is currently in the prototype stage, but Micro Meat has successfully created a product from cultured pork, she said. The company has raised $375,000 in pre-funding so far and is in the process of raising a $2 million seed round.

The round should give the two-year runway needed to set up a research and development line, upgrade more equipment and consumables, and secure some co-development contracts, Merzen said.

Micro meeting team. Co-founders Anne-Sophie Mertzen and Vincent Prible are third and fourth from left.

More holes in B2B to fill

Micro Meat and Mooji Meat share one important message: B2B players have untapped opportunities in the alternative meat space.

“The first B2B players entered the market in 2017, and the first cultured meat companies were established in 2013-2014,” Mertgen said. So it’s generally a very young industry, but I think it’s going to be really necessary.”

Mohr says he is now seeing some of these companies emerge: “There are more and more platform solutions in development, which basically shows us that the industry as a whole is evolving,” she said.

But there are even more holes in the alternative industry, and they need to be closed, industry analysts say. Two stand out now: more varied sources of protein for plant-based meats and cheaper sources of growth factors for cultured meat products.

The good news is that companies that want to delve into these issues have the money. The volume of private funding for the alternative protein space has increased since 2020. That same year, $3.1 billion was invested in alternative proteins, 3 times more than the previous year. And in 2022, we still saw major funding rounds close.

This is a great setup for an industrial alternative meat platform with the potential to scale this emerging science. Any problem in the supply chain is a scientific problem big enough to build or destroy a business, if not a career.

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