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While the cell-based protein space has heated up rapidly in Western Europe, the U.S. and Asia-Pacific in recent years, startups tapping cellular agriculture to sustainably produce meat remain few and far between in Central and Eastern Europe. Bene Meat Technologies is changing that. Led by a team of Czech biotechnologists and food scientists, the Prague-based startup is the first and only project in the region working on bringing cultivated meat to plates.
One-year-old food tech Bene Meat prides itself as the first-mover in the Central European cultivated meat industry. As the first and only startup of its kind in the Czech Republic and the wider Central-Eastern European (CEE) territories, the team is racing to compete on the global scale and says it has already reached “several important milestones” towards making cell-based proteins a reality for consumers in the region.
They’ve already managed to cultivate animal cells in FBS-free medium and have developed several cell lines to grow muscle tissue. Now, Bene Meat has set its sights on building the micro-bioreactors that can then be scaled up to produce cultivated meat, alongside their research partners at the Prague Institute of Chemical Engineering and Swiss firm Bioengineering.
According to the startup, their first test-concept bioreactor prototypes will be ready in a matter of a “couple of weeks”, ahead of a larger-scale launch by the end of 2021. These bioreactors are where cells can proliferate, creating the building blocks to culture real animal muscle.
“Large-scale bioreactors for the differentiation of cells and 3D structure forming will be the next crucial step,” explained Bene Meat chemical process engineer Katrin Neubauerova.
We need a medium with more nutrients for the cells, in order to have a competitive price for the product.Hana Raschmanova, Research Scientist, Bene Meat Technologies.
“Just cheap nutrition is not enough for consumers. The taste and structure also have to be identical to regular meat.”
Bene Meat revealed that they are also focused on creating affordable FBS-free medium alternatives that can replace the current standard used in laboratories, a feat that would dramatically reduce costs for cell-based protein producers, ultimately making the end-product much more competitive when it reaches market.
“We need a medium with more nutrients for the cells, in order to have a competitive price for the product,” said Hana Raschmanova, who is part of the Prague-based R&D team.
Large-scale bioreactors for the differentiation of cells and 3D structure forming will be the next crucial step.Katrin Neubauerova, Chemical Process Engineer, Bene Meat Technologies
We are developing the technology for a fully-fledged meat alternative, that is healthier, controlled, and verifiable.Roman Kriz, CEO, Bene Meat Technologies
While some other cellular agriculture startups like Israel’s Meat-Tech 3D, British firm Moolec Science and California-based New Age Meats are planning to develop “hybrid” alternative protein products – those that incorporate both cell-cultured and plant-based ingredients – Bene Meat says they are sticking exclusively to real animal meat cultured directly from cells to “entirely replace the livestock” at “all levels”.
“Why replace meat if we could just replace the animals that are dying to provide us with meat?” said Roman Kriz, CEO of Bene Meat, adding that the team is dedicated to creating the technology for a “fully-fledged meat alternative that is healthier, controlled and verifiable”.
It’s going to be a big challenge for the young startup, but lead researcher Jiri Janousek believes that the R&D team is up to the task. “We count on the internal motivation of each and every individual in the team. They all know that they are part of something that we can be best in the world at.”
All images courtesy of Bene Meat Technologies.