Last week, Aleph Farms announced the company raised a massive $105 million in its Series B funding round. Based in Israel, Aleph Farms is one of the first startups to use cellular agriculture to produce cell-based meat. Cellular agriculture is the field of producing animal products, like meat, directly from cell cultures instead of raising animals for the same products. By growing animal cells directly, Aleph Farms can make the same meat that comes from animals. Without requiring the animal.
Founded by Didier Toubia and Prof. Shulamit Levenberg, Aleph Farms aims to develop a more sustainable and less resource-intensive way to produce meat. Using its proprietary technology platform and 3D bioprinting, Aleph Farms is the first company to produce a cell-cultured steak.
As the largest funding round to date for an Asian cell-based meat company, Aleph Farms’ funding round is significant in many ways.
Aleph Farms’ Series B funding round was co-led by the Growth Fund of private equity firm L Catterton and DisruptAD, the venture arm of Abu Dhabi’s sovereign fund ADQ. The funding round also featured Skyviews Life Science and a consortium of food and meat companies, such as Thai Union, BRF and CJ CheilJedang. Existing investors in Aleph Farm’s funding round included VisVires New Protein, Strauss Group, Cargill, Peregrine Ventures, and CPT Capital.
The funding round brings Aleph Farms’ total funding to date to $119 million. In May 2019, Aleph Farms raised $12 million in Series A funding. Aleph Farms is the third cell-based meat company to raise over $100 million in funding after Upside Foods (formerly Memphis Meats) and Eat Just-subsidiary Good Meat.
It is significant to see the venture arm of Abu Dhabi’s sovereign fund ADQ co-lead Aleph Farm’s Series B considering the geopolitical context of the Middle East and the United Arab Emirates’s food security goals. As Abu Dhabi’s first investment in an Israeli startup, this round would not have been possible a year ago before the UAE and Israel signed the Abraham Accords to normalize relations between the two countries.
Considering the growing foodtech ecosystem in Israel, the investment signals the UAE’s interest to tap into the Israeli foodtech sector to develop its own foodtech ecosystem. Similar to Singapore, the UAE has ambitions to become a future food hub to achieve its food security goals. By being able to produce animal products without requiring as many resources as conventional animal agriculture, cellular agriculture can certainly help the country achieve its goals.
As part of the announcement, Aleph Farms also shared that the company will evaluate the establishment of a manufacturing facility in Abu Dhabi to supply its cell-based meat to the UAE and the wider Gulf region.
It is also promising to see multiple food and meat companies invest in Aleph Farms’ Series B. As cell-based meat companies look to scale and come to market, strategic partnerships with established food players can bring cell-based meat to market and develop a supply chain around the future of food field.
Aleph Farms previously announced a partnership with Brazilian meat company BRF to bring cell-based meat to Brazil in March 2021. Global seafood producer Thai Union previously signed a Memorandum of Understanding with cell-based seafood company BlueNalu to explore market strategies to bring its cell-cultured seafood to Asia in April 2021.
As the first cellular agriculture company to produce a cell-cultured steak, Aleph Farms has been at the frontiers of cell-based meat technology.
In October 2019, Aleph Farms helped take cellular agriculture to a new frontier by successfully growing the first piece of cell-based meat in outer space on the International Space Station. The successful experiment was a joint project between Aleph Farms, 3D Bioprinting Solutions, Meal Source Technologies, and Finless Foods.
The following year in October 2020, Aleph Farms announced the launch of its space program, Aleph Zero, to grow meat anywhere and everywhere, including outer space. As part of Aleph Zero, Aleph Farms plans to secure partnerships with technology companies and space agencies for long-term collaborative research and development contracts to explore cellular agriculture innovations in outer space. Aleph Farms aims to ultimately use its BioFarms, its large-scale cultivation facilities, in extraterrestrial environments to advance food security and produce food anywhere without requiring local resources.
Beyond growing meat in outer space, Aleph Farms also continued to improve its steak on earth. In November 2020, Aleph Farms showcased the commercial prototype of its cell-based steak. Compared to its first steak prototype in December 2018, Aleph Farms beefed up its steak by increasing its size and adapting the meat to fit the company’s automated bioprocesses to ensure the production process can scale.
In addition, in February 2021, Aleph Farms showcased the prototype of its latest product: the world’s first cell-based ribeye steak. The company claims its ribeye steak has the same taste and texture of a “juicy ribeye steak you’d buy from the butcher”. By using its 3D bioprinting technology, Aleph Farms believes the company can produce any type of steak and plans to expand its portfolio of meat products.
Moving forward, Aleph Farms plans to use the funding round to execute plans for large-scale global commercialization and portfolio expansion into different types of animal meats. The company plans to continue to scale up manufacturing ahead of a market launch in 2022.
Regarding regulation, Aleph Farms is currently working with different regulatory agencies on plans for market entry. When announcing its ribeye steak prototype, Aleph Farms shared that the company is targeting Japan and Singapore for the pilot launch of its cell-based meat. In December 2020, Singapore became the first country to give regulatory approval for the sale of cell-based meat.
While there is no regulatory framework established yet in Japan, Aleph Farms signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Mitsubishi to bring cell-based meat to Japan in January 2021. Aleph Farms is also a member of the “Cellular Agriculture Study Group” in Japan, a consortium implementing policy proposals under the Japanese Center for Rule-Making Strategy.
As the largest funding round to date for an Asian cellular agriculture company, Aleph Farms’ funding round may indicate that more investors may start to further support startups in Asia as they achieve their scaling milestones. Prior to Aleph Farms’ funding round, less than 11% of all cellular agriculture food investments have gone to companies based in Asia. With the latest round, approximately 16% of all cellular agriculture food investments have gone to startups based across Asia. To build the future of food.
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