A Sydney-based start-up that is looking to produce lab-grown meat for human consumption has been offered a financial grant from the NSW government, and is reportedly already in talks with prominent Australian chefs.
The state’s Minister for Jobs, Investment and Western Sydney, Stuart Ayers, announced that North Parramatta-based start-up VOW has been awarded the grant funding in order to develop its technology that sees meat cultivated from animal cells.
VOW was established in March this year, according to the LinkedIn profiles of its two founders, former Cochlear design lead Tim Noakesmith and George Peppou (pictured), program manager and start-up mentor at Cicada Innovations Incubator.
“In a world first, VOW has created the first ever cell-cultured kangaroo meat grown from stem cells taken from a kangaroo,” the minister said in a statement announcing the grant.
He expressed hope that the Western Sydney region could become a national base for the production of meat derived from animal stem cells.
“Western Sydney is the perfect base for Australia’s first cultivated-meat start-up to take forward a global-scale opportunity to generate a new food industry together with high-tech jobs in cell-based agriculture,” Mr Ayers said.
“We are on the doorstep of Asia and, with Western Sydney Airport now underway, the potential to develop a world-class laboratory to manufacture high-quality cultivated meat exports is massive.”
According to the pair, demand for consumption-grade meat is steadily growing, driven by “rising middle classes in developing nations consuming more protein”.
But with this surging demand comes concerns about farming and environmental sustainability in the quest to feed the world’s growing population.
“We’re building a team of scientists, designers and technologists all on a quest to meet the world’s protein demands for the future in a sustainable manner,” the founders said.
However, they suggested that “we are not in competition with traditional livestock farming”.
“There is plenty of room for traditional meat as well as plant-based and cell-cultured meat to provide greater choice for consumers,” they said.
“We hope to build a full-scale factory in Western Sydney that will eventually mass-produce many tonnes of cell-cultivated meat each year for Australia and for export.”
Alongside its production ambitions, Mr Peppou said that VOW is building what he labelled a “Noah’ Ark” cell library, which he said would be the world’s biggest collection of cell samples.
“At the moment, we have only domesticated for food production less than 1 per cent of what’s in nature, so there are many unlocked food secrets to explore in the other 99.6 per cent,” he said.
“Nature has incredible diversity, so there is great potential to create new food experiences. Our cell library will discover and catalogue new flavour, texture and nutritional profiles that we can also combine to create amazing new food experiences.”
According to Mr Peppou, VOW is already in discussions with “top-tier” Australian chefs to create dishes using cultivated meats, the first of which he hoped to have publicly available by the end of 2020.
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.