Achieving a similar marbling and texture to a piece of animal meat has been a challenge for food technology startups that wanted to produce whole pieces of cultured meat, but New farms believes it has cracked the code with its pork loin.
Armed with $1.4 million in SAFE notes, or a simple agreement for future equity, the company, founded by Nieves Martinez Marshall and Michelle Lu in 2020, makes cultured meat — grown from cells rather than in an animal; they met as postdoctoral scientists in the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of California at Berkeley.
Martinez Marshall told toptecheasy.com it has “successfully grown the world’s first butcher-free pork loin that exhibits the marbling and texture of a true muscle cut.”
“There is no other company doing pork loin right now,” she said when asked how the company could make such a ‘first in the world’ statement. The closest competitors are Higher Steaks in London and CellX in China, both of which do pork belly, she added.
Other cultured meat companies focus on making food, in most cases from ground sources. For example, sausages (Meatable), hamburgers (SCiFi Foods) and chicken (UPSIDE Foods), which are easier to make than whole pieces, Martinez Marshall added. Bluu Seafood, a German company that develops lab-grown seafood, debuted its fish fingers and fish balls this week. The products are made from cultured fish cells and vegetable protein.
While Martinez Marshall didn’t want to get into the weeds about Novel Farms’ technology, she explained that it’s developing a proprietary microbial fermentation approach to produce the scaffolding needed to make the entire cuts, but in a cheaper way. It does this by using inexpensive microorganisms commonly found in food.
Unlike colleagues in the cultured meat industry who add biomaterials such as alginate, cellulose and mycelia to allow cells to adhere to make the meat structure, Novel Farms’ technology is able to bypass that step entirely, reducing the production costs of scaffolds with 99.27% are reduced. Martinez Marshall says this means scaling the product will be faster, as well as reaching price parity with traditional meat products.
The company has already shown that its technology is viable and can make a piece of cultured meat. Still, she doesn’t expect to get the pork loin into consumers’ hands until 2025, with commercial plants coming online in 2026, followed by mass production in 2027.
The SAFE investment comes from a group of investors, including a majority stake in Big Idea Ventures, and funding from Joyance/Social Starts, Sustainable Food Ventures, Good Startup, CULT Foods and strategic angel investors. Novel Farms is also starting a seed round.
Plans for the capital include hiring a team (currently it’s just Martinez Marshall and Lu) and scaling up.
“We just have a very good, efficient scaffold and the cells adhere very well,” said Martinez Marshall. “That’s something that no one else has. If we confirm that and scale up with a bioreactor, we will be the most affordable of all companies.”