Israel’s Aleph Farms is known for its progress within the cultivated meat sector. Now, it has announced it will be diversifying its interests to include cell-based collagen.
The news comes as the company pledges to replace or reproduce all bovine proteins that are commercially valuable. The move is seen as a natural extension of Aleph Farms’ mission to develop a viable alternative to animal farming as a whole.
Cultivated collagen has been researched by the company’s in-house incubation accelerator, Aleph Frontiers. Investigations were carried out in stealth mode for 18 months with final product development now in progress. 2024 has been slated as an initial launch date.
The need for collagen alternatives
Collagen is found in a range of food, beauty, and health products. Known for its skin elasticity-improving qualities, collagen is made from the skin and bones of animals, traditionally cows and fish.
Aleph decided to look into the potential for manufacturing cell-based collagen after it noted that meat proteins typically make up just one-third of each cow that dies for the cause. The rest is used for things such as collagen, meaning there is scope to further disrupt the animal farming industry, by providing an alternative. Creating by-products of the meat industry is, Aleph hopes, a viable way of ending the reliance on animal slaughter for good.
“To achieve our vision, we need to provide alternatives to the other animal parts as well, including collagen-based products,” Didier Toubia, co-founder and CEO of Aleph Farms said in a statement sent to Food Dive. “Focusing on single categories of animal products does not account for the complexity of the animal agriculture ecosystem. The protein transition should rely on a systems-based approach to successfully contribute to a comprehensive, just and inclusive meat sector transition.”
The move into cultivated collagen comes as Aleph begins to enjoy the fruits of a relatively new open supply agreement with Munich-based Wacker, to drive down costs of cultivated meat production. Company relocation to a new 65,000 sq ft headquarters in Rehovot has been completed alongside, to allow production to increase six-fold.
The science behind the ethics
Aleph claims that the process of growing collagen cells is akin to that of creating cultivated meat. The resulting product is comparable to conventional collagen and offers an easy, symbiotic diversification away from just developing meat. Already set up for the latter, Aleph has been able to keep initial stages cost-effective, wth scope for fast scaling. One issue will remain, however.
Just as with cultivated meat, cell-based collagen will be subject to regulatory approvals prior to sale. It is reasonable to assume that consumer reaction will be positive, given how conventional collagen is made, plus the fact that it can simply be used in skincare products and not eaten.
The new collagens
Also investigating cell-based collagen is Jellatech. The North Carolina startup closed a $2 million pre-seed round in April last year, to fuel sample creation, R&D and eventual launch of its animal-free collagen and gelatin solutions.
In Hong Kong, Avant Meats has also made the leap from cultivated foods to collagen, just as Aleph has. The cell-based seafood startup has manufactured a marine-based protein that replaces conventional collagen in beauty products. Dubbed ‘Zellulin’, it is made using traceable fish cells but offers sustainable credentials.
On the vegan side of things, using no animal cells at all, is Geltor. Its ‘PrimaColl’ vegan collagen is claimed to be the world’s-first and bioidentical to conventional proteins. It is already being used in beauty products, not requiring the same regulatory approval as cell-based alternatives, and is set to be a defining characteristic of a newly-announced partnership with K-Beauty influencer Sally Olivia Kim. Last month the company announced its inaugural production run of PrimaColl, designed to prove scaling and precision capabilities.
Lead photo by Mikhail Nilov at Pexels.