Picture: NEVODKA / 123RF
Picture: NEVODKA / 123RF

In the world of artificial meats, you cannot get more alien than growing your beef in space.

That is what the Israeli start-up Aleph Farms showed might be possible in an experiment on the International Space Station last week, where it grew small-scale muscle tissue from bovine cells using a Russian 3D bioprinting company.

“We are working on a new method to produce the same meat, but in a way that uses less than half of the greenhouse gasses,” said Didier Toubia, co-founder and CEO of Aleph Farms, noting that the experiment was preliminary and just a proof of concept.

“The experiment in space shows that meat can be cultivated in the harshest conditions, meaning anywhere, any time and for anyone,” he said.

Consumers, cutting down on meat intake for dietary reasons or concern for the environment, have already been introduced to plant-based burgers, sausage and other meat-like products.

Beyond Meat, a company that touts its production process as more humane and sustainable than livestock production, has seen its stock soar since its early May debut price. The market for such plant-based products is expected to reach $27.9bn by 2025, according to research firm Markets and Markets, and Beyond Meat already competes with Impossible Foods, Kellogg, Nestle and Tyson Foods, among others.

While partly a publicity stunt, the experiment’s goal was to help Aleph Farms advance its research into meat production in harsh conditions without depending on natural resources, the company said.

While Aleph Farms’ proof of concept in space was successful, even on Earth it will take at least three years before consumers will be able to buy its steaks or burgers, according to company estimates.

“The mission of providing access to high-quality nutrition any time, anywhere in a sustainable way is an increasing challenge for all humans,” said Jonathan Berger, CEO of The Kitchen accelerator that cofounded Aleph.

Aleph Farms, which has raised about $13m, has investors including Israel’s Strauss Group, Cargill Protein, New Crop Capital, and Vis Vires New Protein.

Bloomberg