As climate change increasingly impacts the stability of food production and distribution, how is novel food production helping to build resilience in Asia’s food system today?
Didier Toubia, Co-Founder and CEO of Aleph Farms, a company that grows cultivated beef steaks from non-genetically engineered cells, discusses novel food’s role in supporting a sustainable food system in Asia.
How is novel food production helping to subsidise traditional forms of food production to feed a growing population in Asia? How can traditional and novel work more closely?
“Cellular agriculture is the newest chapter of animal agriculture’s story. With rising demand for animal proteins, domesticating animal cells as complementary animal products reduces pressure on sustainable livestock farming, and can help solve the inherent conflict between scale and sustainability in our food systems.”
The rising middle-class consumer in Asia is increasing their meat consumption. What does this mean for the future of cell-cultivated protein when working towards sustainability and food security?
“Population growth across Asia adds to the increased pressure on demand for food. The rising wealth of the middle-classes means people are more ready to prioritize higher quality nutrition. To meet this growing demand, we must embrace strategic choices that make agri-food systems more diverse, and resilient, without compromising on quality.
Animal agriculture began thousands of years ago when people started observing and replicating natural phenomena (animal growth and reproduction) under controlled conditions in the pasture. Cellular agriculture continues this tradition at the level of cells – the building blocks of life. Instead of domesticating an entire animal by nurturing it in a pasture, cellular agriculture domesticates animal cells by nurturing them in a cultivator.
Just as meat shaped our evolution as a species and milk influenced our progress as a civilization, a new category of animal products – the animal cell itself – stands to have a monumental impact on how we adapt to our own increased presence and effect on the planet.
Unlike meat, a cell doesn’t need to be harvested from a slaughtered animal. Unlike dairy, it can replicate outside the body of a living animal. When allowed to proliferate and mature in a cultivator with only the resources it needs, an animal cell can enable high-quality nutrition that is accessible regardless of climate or availability of local land and water. This improves sustainability and food security (that is, reliable access to quality nutrition) across our food systems. When production via the animal cell supplements conventional methods, food systems can meet demand with fewer and better managed animals, enabling us to access adequate nutrition while staying within our planetary boundaries.”
What public-private partnerships can be leveraged to incentivise consumers to purchase more sustainable protein products, which in turn could make the supply chain more resilient?
“Public-private partnerships can help consumers make more informed choices about their food. By reflecting the external effects of food production (and consumption) in the price of food products, including environmental, and health impacts, consumers can prioritize more sustainable food options.”
Which milestones do you think alternative proteins will achieve by the end of the decade?
“For cultivated meat to be a food choice that can drive a significant impact globally, we need to produce large quantities of it in a cost-efficient manner. At Aleph, we’re focused on high-value products, like beef, and that allows us to shorten the timeline to price parity with conventional meat. Price parity will be key for cultivated meat to reach mainstream markets. We believe that by the end of the decade cultivated meat will reach this price parity.”
Hear more from Didier as he joins the following panel on the Food-Tech Agenda: ‘From Traditional to Future Food: Enabling the Transition to a Sustainable Food System’.