Reinvented, Relocated Meat and Milk: Massive Opportunities
Dec 21, 2020 Dr Peter Harrop
Dairy and meat are major industries - the combined industries are currently worth over $2 trillion, with the global livestock industry employing over 1.3 billion people. New businesses worth tens of billions of dollars will emerge within the next 20 years as the meat and dairy industries begin to relocate into city laboratories. The recent IDTechEx report, "Plant-based and Cultured Meat 2020-2030", describes both mimicking meat with textured vegetable matter and making meat by growing it from cells. IDTechEx calculates that this new "cultured meat" will rise from nowhere to "only" $0.5 billion in 2030, but this is a steep exponential and the meat industry will be massively impacted by it thereafter. Leading cultured meat start-up Mosa Meat claims that a single cell sample can speedily create 10,000 kg of cultured meat, using 99% less land, 96% less water than the traditional meat industry.
Smart cities will be food independent. Facing the new reality caused by rising sea levels, climate change, and large-scale urbanization, food production, including vegetable and fish farming, will take place within cities. At the same time, agrivoltaics producing electricity will enhance city farming and vertical farms in high rise buildings. For those, see IDTechEx reports, "Smart Cities Market 2021-2041" and "Vertical Farming: 2020-2030".
With their vast farms and issues of cost, energy, efficiency, infection, cruelty, water consumption, pollution, and logistics, the meat and dairy industries sit awkwardly with people moving to smart cities. In its current form, the industry is unsustainable. There is, therefore, considerable investment in cellular technology to create both cow and human milk in laboratories in cities following successful early work to make so-called "cultivated" meat in city laboratories and the beginnings of its commercialization. However, cultivated meat and the more-recently invented cultivated milk face serious challenges of cost reduction, scale-up and regulatory approval, so sales will grow slowly at the start.
Founded in 2019, TurtleTree Labs in Singapore uses cell-based methods to make milk without the need for animals while retaining the same composition and taste. Fresh cells are extracted from the milk of mammals ranging from cow's milk to breast milk.
In 2020, founder Ms Lin Fengru recounted, "Two years ago, I met my co-founder Max who was at Google making a speech about how cell-based companies like Memphis Meats and BlueNalu were using stem cells to make meat and seafood. After the talk, I asked him if we could use similar methods to make milk. Back then there was nobody else doing it, so we decided to do some research around this area together. We pulled in scientists. Last year we made a breakthrough and found our patterns. Our technology involves sourcing cells from milk itself. This could be from all mammals, including goats, sheep, camels, cows, and even humans. We would then isolate cells from the milk and grow these cells into a large number. Subsequently, we would expose these cells to our patented, in-house lactation media. These cells then act like a factory where they will process through the lactation media, keep on multiplying, and convert the lactation media into milk. We are essentially recreating the environment inside a cow udder or a human breast outside the body."
The milk is obtained through filtration. Such cell-based foods, said Ms Lin, could be a solution to the issues of heavy land use, energy, and water consumption that are associated with traditional dairy farming.
"The idea of lactating cells outside of the animal or human body has actually been thought about for 10 or 20 years, but the problem with this has always been with scaling up. The yield of these cells are quite small, and it's only in recent years there have been certain technologies around cell engineering for us to overexpress certain components, increase the yield, and make it cost-effective in the near term. We currently have a five-litre bioreactor that is continuously churning out milk, which would be linearly scalable to 50,000 litres next year."
She says one of the main challenges for cell-based meat industries is no continual process. After the cells multiply, the meat produced is then made into a patty for people to eat. After that, they expensively start from scratch.
"We reuse the cells for hundreds of cycles as milk-lactating factories, driving down cost and go to the market a lot faster. As consumers, what people care about is getting the same product without having to change their habits, and we're able to offer milk that has the same nutritional values, the same taste, and also similar pricing. The population of our planet is only going to grow, and we need to continue to innovate to provide better nutrition for everyone in a sustainable fashion."
Milk substitutes such as oat and rice milk are great for replacing the fluid, milk-drinking market but cheese, butter, cream, and yoghurt need to be recreated with fresh raw milk. Unfortunately, after decades, plant-based milk has less than 1% market share. Instant baby formula is a formulation of whey protein from cows or vegetable extracts. Babies consuming milk from a different animal can have gut and digestion problems. Exact replication is much better for the baby's gut health and brain growth. By growing animal milk Turtle Tree supply all these industries.
She enthuses, "Our company will be heavily based on a licensing and royalty model. This includes working with equipment manufacturers like Tetra Pak to build bioreactors for producing milk; dairy processors like Fonterra and Dairy Farmers of America to process milk and consumer brands like Nestle and Mead Johnsons to co-develop end products".
Raghu Das, CEO of IDTechEx comments, "We are positive about both cultivated milk and cultivated meat. We expect major impact on the industry before 2040."
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