NovaMeat, the Spanish food tech startup that has developed vegan-friendly 3D-printed “meat” using only plant-based proteins has just unveiled version 2.0 of their vegan steak, described as the most realistic product yet to mimic the texture and appearance of a cut of beef steak. The company first shot to fame in 2018, and has since developed a series of other 3D-printed plant-based meats, including chicken and fish fillet. With further improvements and scaling-up down the line, the Barcelona-based startup is hoping to support a more humane and sustainable global food system.
Spanish startup NovaMeat, which creates realistic meat alternatives by 3D-printing plant-based proteins, has just developed a new version of its meat-free steak. Costing around US$ 1.50 to produce 50 grams, the product, which CEO Giuseppe Scionti dubbed “Steak 2.0”, is the first to simultaneously replicate both the texture and appearance of a cut of an animal’s muscle. Unlike burgers and meatballs, steak and other whole muscle cuts, such as chicken breast and pork chops, are difficult to imitate with only plant ingredients given their depth of texture. Currently, there remain almost no plant-based offerings apart from NovaMeat who have managed to reproduce a realistic fibrous fleshy meat alternative product.
The company uses a combination of tissue engineering and technology that allows for micro-structured tri-dimensional 3D-printing in order to accurately mimic the consistency, appearance, texture and nutritional properties of animal meat products. The technique was discovered by Scionti during his work as a researcher and assistant professor of bioengineering at the University of Catalunya. Ingredients-wise, NovaMeat employs protein from rice, peas and algae fibres, natural plant-based colourants like paella for appearance, and some fats such as olive, canola and coconut oil in their food paste formulation.
Commenting on NovaMeat’s breakthrough, David Welch, the director of science and technology at the Good Food Institute (GFI), an international organisation promoting vegan and cultivated protein alternatives said: “NovaMeat’s bioprinting-based technology provides a flexible and tunable method of producing plant-based meat, with the utility to create different textures…Alternative technologies like NovaMeat’s give plant-based meat manufacturers a wider array of tools to mimic all types of meat and seafood.”
The mission of the company is to encourage a global transition away from traditional livestock farming, an unsustainable industry that is at the core of driving our climate crisis. Animal agriculture is responsible for 18% of global greenhouse emissions, more than all of the transportation sector combined. In addition, the industry uses up vast amounts of water, land and has eroded our topsoil and contaminated waterways.
Looking ahead to the future, the company is hoping to improve the taste and nutritional profile of their 3D-printed vegan meats. One area they are currently working on is to achieve the real taste of meat using the perfect combination of plant-based lipids. They are also looking to formulate the right amino balance, and hope to include more variety in the sources of plant-based protein to ensure their product can support balanced diets.
In terms of scaling-up, the startup hopes to be able to commercialise in the restaurant sector before the end of this year and partnering with companies in the cultured meat space too. This means that rather than selling their products in retail, NovaMeats is hoping to build and ultimately license their technology to sustainable food manufacturers. Inspired by similar reasons, to help solve our planetary emergency fix our unsustainable global food system, another company here in Asia is working on 3D-printed food tech. Tokyo-based Open Meals has managed to 3D-print pixelated sushi with customisable added nutrients, which will debut in their restaurant Sushi Singularity some time this year.
Lead image courtesy of NovaMeat.