Here’s Y Combinator’s answer to the scaling problem of farmed meat – TechCrunch

The positive impact meat substitutes can have on the environment – ​​like plant-based or farmed meat – can have on the environment is remarkable. In the optimistic scenarios as we transition from a high-meat to a plant-based diet over the next 15 years, between sixty one68 percentage of avoidable agricultural greenhouse gas emissions.

Except for the fact that meat substitutes have a big problem of scale.

Good Food Institute (GFI) estimate that alternative meat producers would need to create 800 facilities and spend about $27 billion within a decade to meet global demand.

To do this, plant and farm-raised meat companies need to tackle scientific issues ranging from bioreactor size and efficiency to the high cost of the growth factors used in the plant. cell cultured meat. Some startups see these scale issues as a strong foothold in the alternative meat space. Instead of launching brands, these are alternative B2B protein companies developing scalable industrial production platforms. There are two companies in this year’s Y Combinator cohort embrace this model.

Mooji Meats: Fast 3D Printing Entire Cuts

Mooji Meats was founded just 6 months ago and is in the process of raising the first $2.5 million of its first seed round. The company has developed a 3D printer capable of creating whole meat using plant proteins or cultured meat cells. Co-founder Insa Mohr told TechCrunch that they are developing a 3D printed cut of Wagyu beef and hope a prototype will be viable for taste testing within six months.

“There is always a balance between scale and texture,” Mohr tells TechCrunch. “3D printing has always produced amazing textures without scaling. Then there are other technologies that can scale but don’t produce good textures. Especially not for steak. And we overcome this trade-off.”

The founders of Mooji Meats are Insa Mohr and Jochen Mueller.

Mohr claims that Mooji can print these cuts of meat by layering fat, connective tissue, and muscle cells in a marbled pattern, but she doesn’t provide many details on how that happens. Mooji’s main advantage, she said, is speed. Mohr says a printhead is “250 times faster” than existing 3D printers.

At this early stage, it’s not a crime to be secretive. But evidence of this enhanced operating speed needs to be shown soon. Mohr claims that the $2.5 million Mooji is currently raising is enough runway to get the company to their first customer and, one hopes, real-world proof of concept. .

Micro-meat: Undercover for cultured meat companies

If you think plant-based meats will have trouble meeting demand, that’s nothing compared to the cost challenges that grown meats face.

Some companies at least claim to break that cost barrier. In December 2021, Future Meat, an Israeli farmed meat company recently raised $347 million Series RED led by ADM Ventures (a leap from its $14 million Series A) and claims to have the ability to process a pound of chicken for $7.70, less than half of the $18 it cost 6 months ago. But that number is still about $3 cost per pound of regular chicken.

Anne-Sophie Mertgen, founder of startup Micro Meat, told TechCrunch that most new farm-raised meat companies still struggle to grow and operate their businesses at scale.

Early micro-meat experiments showed meat being cultured in dishes.

“No other industry exists where the big players are purely vertical,” she told TechCrunch. So we really believe that to build this industry on a large scale it is necessary to deliver to the world. we need more b2b players. ”

Micro Meat was founded in 2021, while Mertgen’s postdoc work at Tec de Monterrey in Mexico was halted due to the pandemic. Micro Meat’s focus is on creating tissue scaffolds. The septum is the structure that facilitates the flow of nutrients and provides cells with the signals they need to form mature muscle tissue. Unstructured ground products don’t need extremely complicated scaffolding, but cuts like steak do.

“We can nurture them [tissue scaffolds] using the same processes that the farmed meat industry is using, such as bioreactors,” she said. “We can scale this indefinitely, just like right now we can easily produce with our first prototype, 100 grams per minute.”

The technology is currently in beta, but Micro Meat has successfully produced farmed pork, she said. To date, the company has raised $375,000 in pre-seed funding and is in the process of raising $2 million in seed funding.

That round will provide a runway of up to two years to set up R&D lines, finalize more devices and consumer products, and sign several development contracts, Mertgen said.

Micro Meat Group. Co-founders Ann-Sophie Mertgen and Vincent Pribble are third and fourth from left.

More B2B holes to fill

Both Micro Meat and Mooji Meats share a larger thesis: there is untapped opportunity for B2B players in the alternative meat space.

“The first B2B players entered the market in 2017, while the first farmed meat companies were established in 2013-14,” Mertgen said. So this is generally a super young industry, but I think it’s really necessary. “

Mohr says she’s seeing some of these companies emerging right now: “More and more platform solutions are evolving, which basically shows us that the entire industry is evolving.” , she speaks.

However, there are still many gaps in the alternative industry that need to be filled, industry analysts note. Two emerging issues are: more diverse protein source options for plant-based meat and cheaper sources of growth factor for farm-raised meat products.

The good news is that there is money for companies looking to dig into these issues. The amount of private funding into the alternative protein space has been heating up since 2020. That year $3.1 billion was poured into alternative proteins, a Tripled in funding from the previous year. And in 2022we have continued to see big expense ring near the.

It’s a great setup for a company that makes this nascent scientifically scalable platform for industrial meat substitutes. Every supply chain problem is a scientific challenge big enough to make or break a company, if not a career.

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