Israeli startup Aleph Farms has been working on cell-cultured collagen for 18 months in stealth mode and is now moving to the full product development stage, aiming for a commercial launch in 2024.
Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body’s extra-cellular matrix and is associated with various health benefits, including skin health and elasticity, joint health and mobility, and muscle strength.
The Israeli startup said that producing collagen using cell-culturing techniques demonstrates its technological capability to produce animal-derived products that have attributes similar to slaughter-based products.
“These attributes have not been matched by plant-based alternatives to animal products, or by fermentation-based products before,” the company said in a statement.
Aleph Farms said its cultivated collagen includes the entire extracellular matrix (ECM), made up of a variety of fibre-forming proteins that represents the complete matrix of skin, bones, and joints.
First product from innovation incubator Aleph Frontiers
Cell-cultured collagen will be the first product developed via Aleph Frontiers, an internal incubator it launched in February that conducts R&D and validates new concepts for product development.
This expansion to other high-value animal parts is part of its strategy to replace the whole cow using cell-cultivation, it said.
“While intensive animal farming practices currently produce 70% of the world’s meat supply, the meat itself only accounts for one-third of the entire animal that is slaughtered. At Aleph, we know that in order to truly supplement regenerative livestock practices, we must find new ways to produce a variety of animal derived products at scale. That’s why today we are excited to share our strategy to replace the whole cow as a supplement to sustainable cattle farming,” the company said.
‘Nature-identical collagen types’
Conventional bovine collagen is produced by boiling and processing cow hides and bones.
To make its slaughter-free collagen, Aleph Farms uses components from the same production method it uses to produce cell-cultured steak. This includes bovine cell sources and animal component-free growth medium and will result in “several nature-identical collagen types directly from cow cells”, it said.
A booming market with potential in personal care
The global collagen market was worth US$1.15 billion in 2021 and was projected to rise by a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.9% to reach $1.46 billion by 2026, according to Mordor Intelligence.
The food and beverage industry is the largest end user for collagen with most demand coming from the beverage, bakery, and snack sectors. Mordor Intelligence attributes this to the ingredient’s multi-functionality and nutritional benefits. However, it predicts that collagen use in the personal care and cosmetics sector will outpace other segments in the period up to 2026, with a CAGR of 6.06%, by volume.
On the launch of Aleph Frontiers, Dr Neta Lavon, the startup’s chief technical officer, said: “We are committed to driving impact through innovation. This is why we have been hyper-focused on developing the most advanced technology in the cultivated meat industry. Expanding our R&D footprint in this new facility will help us drive exciting new advancements for the field of cultivated animal products.”