A Western Sydney startup has joined the global race to produce lab-grown meat from animal stem cells and the NSW government is backing the project with a $25,000 grant to get it to a Minimum Viable Product.
The Australian twist to the tail is that the cellular agtech startup VOW is growing its meat from kangaroo cells. The venture has already produced lab-grown pork, as well as the lab Skippy.
VOW was co-founded by former Cochlear design lead Tim Noakesmith and George Peppou from startup accelerator Cicada Innovations. The company says its ‘digital’ approach to food “will set us free from the physical constraints of agriculture – making the pleasure of food sustainable for everyone”.
The global race to produce lab meat has been underway since Dutch startup Mosa Meat produced a $400,000 beef burger in a petri dish in 2013. California-based startup, Memphis Meats, has set itself a deadline of 2021 for retail lab meat production.
Earlier this year, Jack Cowin, the billionaire founder of Hungry Jacks, announced he was partnering with the CSIRO’s innovation fund, Main Sequence Ventures (MSV), in a joint-venture business to develop a plant-based burger dubbed the ‘v2whopper’.
Another Australian startup, Heuros in Brisbane, is also in the race to produce meat from animal stem cells but there’s still no commercial lab-meat available anywhere in the world.
VOW hopes to have its first product available by the end of 2020.
George Peppou said that one of VOW’s ambitions is to build the biggest “Noah’s Ark” cell library in the world with cell samples to develop new food experiences.
“At the moment we have only domesticated for food production less than 1% of what’s in nature so there are many unlocked food secrets to explore in the other 99.6%,” he said.
“Our cell library will discover and catalogue new flavour, texture and nutritional profiles that we can also combine to create amazing new food experiences.
Peppou said they’d already begun collaboration discussions with leading Australian chefs to design dishes using cultivated meats.
His co-founder Tim Noakesmith said growing meat sustainably from stem cells will have a fraction of the footprint of traditional livestock farming in terms of land and water use.
“We’re building a team of scientists, designers and technologists all on a quest to meet the world’s protein demands for the future in a sustainable manner. But we are not in competition with traditional livestock farming,” he said.
“There is plenty of room for traditional meat as well as plant-based and cell-cultured meat to provide greater choice for consumers.
“We hope to build a full scale factory in Western Sydney that will eventually mass produce many tonnes of cell-cultivated meat each year for Australia and for export.”