Growing delicious steak means caring from the start. Enjoying meat no longer needs to come at the expense of nature, but because of it. Aleph Farms is reimagining our food systems, one slaughter-free, net zero steak at a time.
Ahead of Future Food-Tech next month, we spoke to Didier Toubia about his predictions for cellular agriculture in 2023, challenges in bringing cultivated meat to the mass market, and what’s next for Aleph Farms.
What makes cellular agriculture the “food tech of the future?” What trends in cell-ag do you think will shape the industry in 2023?
Cellular agriculture is uniquely suited to make new and bold products that meet consumers where they are. I don’t use the word ‘unique’ lightly – by working with cells, the building blocks of life, cellular agriculture harnesses the power of nature-inspired design. Conventional food products have had all of human history to connect with diners, so it’s up to food technologists to create products that are delicious, safe and culturally relevant. And when you’re able to oversee and shape cell development in a controlled manner, you can do amazing things. You can build versatile products specifically tailored to blend into global cuisine. This is how to get chefs excited to serve products; this is how to foster acceptance in the long term.
In terms of trends, I believe that 2023 will be a year of regulatory and marketing approvals for cultivated animal products. Governments will continue to embrace cellular agriculture as a solution for ensuring food security and addressing food-related climate challenges. Cellular agriculture companies will partner with established food brands to benefit from expertise and infrastructure of producers and distributors. Finally, cellular agriculture’s advances in tissue engineering, computational design and elsewhere will become translatable to other fields, such as biotechnology.
How would you summarize Aleph Farms’ innovation focus and the main challenges it faces in bringing cultivated meat products to the mass market?
Innovation is our backbone. We have built a foundation of proprietary technology that includes numerous patent families. These breakthroughs help us increase production capacities, optimize processes to meet quality and cost parameters, and move towards regulatory approvals.
We never stop innovating because it’s how we solve some of our most significant challenges in bringing cultivated meat to the mass market – namely, scale-up and cost reduction.
Producing large quantities of cultivated meat efficiently is costly, so we are taking various steps to drive economies of scale and achieve price parity with a wide variety of conventional meat products. Such steps include developing specific technological modules in our production platform and establishing strategic agreements across our supply chains – both in the upstream supply chain (like raw materials for production) and in the downstream supply chain (like processing and marketing).
Another challenge is the capital-intensive nature of cultivated meat. This is why we are diligent in mobilizing the resources needed to invest in Capital expenditures (CapEx) so that later, we’ll be able to build infrastructure for large-scale production.
There has been a lot of progress in the cell-ag industry – what are the next steps for Aleph?
We are currently planning our launches for Singapore and Israel later this year (pending regulatory approvals). This means that we’re in direct and advanced discussions with premier chefs, restaurant owners and hospitality groups, all of whom play key roles in making these launches successful. Intimate tasting events and exclusive restaurant offerings will better enable diners to provide us with direct feedback upon tasting our cultivated steak, which will inform our marketing and product development strategies.
We are also looking forward to initiating construction of our first large-scale production facility in the United States.
You’re speaking on a panel at Future Food-Tech San Francisco focusing on future-proofing food and increasing resilience across the value chain.
As increasingly frequent impacts of climate change continue to disrupt supply chains, resilience is crucial. How can the transformation of food systems accelerate resilience in the face of market volatility?
Food systems are stretched thin. In the face of sudden shocks to supply chains, existing production systems are incapable of adjusting to meet demand. The end result is that prices increase, and once supply chain disruptions are reflected on price labels, it is not lost on consumers.
Making value chains more resilient means making them shorter and more predictable. This will reduce susceptibility to shocks and serve as an anchor for prices, enabling more stable supply to consumers, even amidst fluctuating markets and rising demand.
This doesn’t mean replacing current production. Rather, it’s about diversifying production. It is diversification of supply that enables stability. This is good news for cellular agriculture: it doesn’t need to seek to replace everything else. Instead, its presence alongside sustainable segments of more conventional supply can increase resilience and flexibility in times of high uncertainty.
This is why it’s imperative that we develop innovative business models that create synergies between different modes of production. By safeguarding workers’ livelihoods and creating new opportunities, we enable current food producers to take an active role in the transition to better food systems.
About Didier Toubia, Co-Founder & CEO, Aleph Farms
Didier Toubia, co-founded Aleph Farms in 2016 and has served as the CEO since its inception. He defined the vision and strategy and is leading the company through multiple phases of rapid growth. A trained Food Engineer and Biologist, Didier has founded several medical device companies and has co-invented over 40 patent families.
Prior to Aleph Farms, Didier co-founded and led IceCure, which went public in 2010, and served as the CEO of NLT Spine, which was acquired by SeaSpine in 2016. He is also co-Founder of BlueTree and Yeap.
Didier holds an M.Eng. in Biology, Biotechnology and Food Eng. from AgroSup Dijon (France), incl. a Thesis at the Technion Institute of Technology, Israel. He achieved his International Executive MBA from the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University, IL (USA) and the Recanati Graduate School of Business Administration, Tel Aviv.
Didier Toubia, Co-Founder & CEO, Aleph Farms joins the panel discussion: ‘Future-Proofing Food: Increasing Resiliency Across the Value Chain’ at Future Food-Tech San Francisco on March 16-17. See the full program at www.futurefoodtechsf.com/agenda and register now at www.futurefoodtechsf.com/register.