Simon Fried of MeaTech
Simon, head of business at MeaTech, grew up around restaurants, has business experience including food retail, FMCG, distilleries and 3D printing. Combined with his academic background in risk, behavioral economics, and behavior change, he’s excited to be playing a part in the cultivated meat mission.
This episode is sponsored by the Black & Veatch NextGen Ag Team. Learn more about Black and Veatch at www.bv.com.
Listen to this episode on your favorite streaming service.
[00:00:00] Alex: Thanks for joining us on the cultured meat and future food show. This episode is sponsored by the black and Veatch next gen ag team. Learn more about black and firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re excited to have Simon as the guest for today’s episode. Simon head of business at meat tech grew up around.
Restaurants has had business experience, including food retail, the fast moving consumer goods, category distilleries, and 3d printing combined with an academic background in risk, behavioral economics and behavior change. He’s excited to be playing a part in the cultivated meets mission. Let’s jump right into the conversation.
Thank you for joining us on the cultured meat and future food show. We’re excited to have Simon freed as the guest for today’s episode Simon. I’d like to welcome you to the cultured meat and future foods.
[00:00:57] Simon: Thank you, Alex. It’s a pleasure to be.
[00:00:59] Alex: Simon, you have quite an impressive background when it comes to food and startups. And there’s a couple of things I must admit I was digging through your LinkedIn profile and there’s a couple of things I want to ask you about as well, but maybe as an introduction to the audience, tell us a little bit about your backup.
[00:01:17] Simon: Hello. And my background is really one of initially being very straight laced and working in management consulting, which with our recommend is a fantastic place for folks to start out because you’ve got a whole wide range of exposures to different industries and sectors and roles. And I ended up doing quite a lot of work for retail.
And looking at how fast moving consumer goods companies sell things in stores and product life cycles for branded goods and general kind of retailer sales and marketing work. So I have a fair bit of insight into how the world of food works and yeah, since leaving the world of consulting. I’ve mostly been in startup.
And I’d imagine that, you know, the one that’s probably the most related to the world of cultured meat, other than me type of course, is having been involved in founding a single malt distillery here in Tel Aviv, which was maybe not full on cell culturing. At least it does involve a fair bit of fermentation and it’s certainly a positive.
[00:02:13] Alex: Great. And that’s really what I wanted to ask you about. Did everything come together for that distillery for you to start that? And is it still.
[00:02:22] Simon: Obviously not sure to get into that kind of a sector. I had actually been working as a consultant for a few global alcohol brands and particularly malt whiskey. And it occurred to me along with a few colleagues one evening. Classic sort of stories of friends in a bar who had probably a bad idea at the time, but we figured that actually would give him how successful whiskey is becoming globally as a product and how it’s now allowed to make whiskey, even if you’re not Irish or Scottish, or perhaps even Japanese or American, a few other countries that have managed to do really, really exciting things with whiskey.
And it’s all to do with how different conditions and different climates lead to different rates of maturity. And so actually there’s a, there’s quite a scene of world whiskeys for the milk. And honey distillery has actually really been going from strength to strength, but happy. I’m proud to say it’s now available.
I think in 27 different countries and anybody who’s in Tel Aviv must come and pay a visit. Cause it’s like a little slice of Scotland on the Mediterra.
[00:03:22] Alex: Well, that is cool. And I’ll keep an eye out to see if I can maybe find it here in the states. I want to ask about meat tech, 3d, but I want to preface that I actually hear about meat tech, 3d a lot on a subreddit channel. And the reason that is, is because a lot of times on this channel, which is really just open to the general public people that might’ve heard of cultured meat for the first time.
They always ask, how do I invest in cultured meat companies? And then meat tech comes up because of the listing. And we’ll get into that in a bit. But for the audience that’s listening in that may not have heard of meat tech 3d. Can you give us a quick introduction to what meat tech 3d is and how it’s really different from kind of other players in this.
[00:04:08] Simon: So Mintek is now about a year and a half, just over a year and a half from any emerging, from being an unheard of company to trying to get in front of the folks in the cultural week space. And then the wider community. I mean, tech was back in January of 2020 and the process of going public or listing on the stock exchange in Tel Aviv.
So the company is Israel based and it’s a B to B business model for the companies working on developing cell based manufacturing technology. Both at the moment for the beef products and also for chicken products and the way the company has gotten to where it is today is through that initial going public on the exchange here at intelligent.
And then just in March of this last year. So in 2031 also uplifting or Julie’s thing, depending on which tone you prefer to the NASDAQ stuff is changed as well. So then you end up being what’s called Juul listed. So that makes it to the best of our knowledge. So far, at least makes me think the only listed cultured meat company.
So I guess those folks on the Reddit would notice it or hear of it. Also, because of being public, we were able to use that as a tool and an M and a process where we acquired a company in Belgium called piece of meat. And they’re now essentially the division working on as part of this meeting group now.
And their focus is very much on everything to do with and cells and the work and the team in Israel are very much focused on beef sales. With the exception of the one thing that we started to think is another different theater and the efforts that we’re putting into 3d. So we have a dedicated team of guys who are all veterans of the 3d printing industry and have long experience of really getting under the hood of printers, not as operators and printers, but designers of printers down to the inter livery systems and the print heads and the software.
So we have, we’ve never really got to focus on beef, on chicken and on how to use those cells for the efforts going into building printers that are going to be industry scale throughput technologies. So it’s a, it’s an international company or relatively small base and national company standards.
They’re probably about 40 or 50 head count, depending on if, when council of the people who are part time, et cetera. And the bulk of the work is done in Israel, but there’s a very focused push on failing up the production of cultured chicken fat.
[00:06:24] Alex: Cool. And there’s a pretty cool video on the website where it really highlights the technology a bit. And if you haven’t checked out that video, please check it out. If not only for the music, because it really woke me up and it’s really cool music and Simon you’re in that video. But I wanted to ask, like, how did some of the core team members originally come to you?
[00:06:47] Simon: The family members of the company. So the two co-founders one is the CEO of FEMA. He has a background in 3d printing. Having worked in a range of printing companies. I actually worked together with him in a previous startup focusing on 3d printing electronics. It’s a company called Lana dimensions.
That’s now also. The other folks in the company, many of them are people that have worked in another dimension in the past. Certainly the team on the printing. And lastly, on the biology side, if I looked at there many people that who’ve come from really a range of backgrounds, sort of very emerging technology.
And we’re really has to look hard to find the right people with the right backgrounds and the right skill sets we have here in Israel. One of our scientific advisors is a professor by the name of Townsville. Who’s very well known for his 3d printing. I think there’s one being the 3d printing of a functional heart.
I just, I think two and a half years ago, I think that was mostly in the press. And so actually quite a lot of the staff are also on the biological side of folks. Who’ve come from his department and his research team at the university of it.
[00:07:50] Alex: We definitely see a lot of strong biotechnology research and ultimately talent come from the different universities in Israel. Is there any reason for why Israel is a powerhouse for biotechnology?
[00:08:06] Simon: So this one has quite a long history of having the concerted effort in biotechnology. I think it’s part of the wider startup and innovation scene that Israel is well known for. There are certain clusters and certainly where we are at BTech we’re based in the science park, which is just next to the Flint Institute, which is.
Institutional research institution. And it turns out that’s really generated a cluster of biotech related companies around that academic institution, that there are several other cultured meat companies as well. Companies like and super recent future major. I should be all all within a few miles of one of them.
And this is very much because this is where those people are congregating. So I think it’s a combination of world-class universities with quite an entrepreneurial and startup focused mindset, but also an ecosystem that really encourages it. So I think in many ways, it’s quite similar to the bay area in the states where it’s an established community of people that know how to support a startup ecosystem.
And I think that’s something that’s oftentimes difficult to replicate and certainly takes time. Biotech it’s well-established in Israel. And now it’s showing itself in cultured meat with so many actors from Israel in such a small area
[00:09:21] Alex: Cool. And yeah, I mean, you do see just driving down the highway. Oh, those are the Google offices or those are the Facebook offices. It would be cool to be like, oh, those are the meat tech 3d offices. And there’s Ella farms. That does seem pretty cool.
[00:09:35] Simon: you would make for a good walking tour, because I think you’d probably cover all of the major cell-based meat companies in a, you know, in sort of 45 minutes.
[00:09:43] Alex: Oh man. And hopefully in the future, there’ll be a little tasting stands as well.
[00:09:48] Simon: That was fantastic. I’m looking forward. What is it? The accountable or the coronavirus?
[00:09:55] Alex: I’d like to dig a little bit deeper between the technology of 3d printed meat or cultured meat. There’s the term used cellular ink. Can you give us a high level overview of the process specifically as it comes to the equipment that meat tech 3d is developed?
[00:10:12] Simon: For those of you that I focused on cultured cultivated, MeetSpace quite well. You’ll be familiar with this exponential type of agriculture that can allow one to produce. What’s not for appetizing, really called biomass in a way you produce the films that you need for a production. And once one has those cells and typically those are going to be fastened and muscles.
As a producer of food, you have to ask yourself, what’s the best thing for me to turn this biomass, to turn these meat ingredients, essentially, what’s the best thing to turn those products into and different types of tools will allow people to make different types of calculated meat products. So some things will be as simple as trying to make a mince meat or ground meat, where there’s a certain texture and the parents and mouthfeel associated with that kind of product.
Or on the other hand, you might have. Well burgers or a hybrid product that contains some plant-based material, but an additional component. And we believe it’s really important is to replicate as fully as possible. What it’s like to have a cut of meat, like a steak or a piece of chicken. These are the traditionally most expensive parts of the meal.
This is central of the plate as they call it in the industry. This is where you have that anchor product that gets wet. Much of the margin can be as well, but it’s where you focus with your celebrations at holidays and so on and so forth. And so in order to replicate that there are certainly different ways tackling that.
And certainly at new tech, we believe that using a 3d printer has really the best prospects to allowing for a process that replicates. But full integrity of the cut of meat. And so you can imagine that one then needs to take either those fat cells or the muscle cells and turn them into ink that are readily printable.
And this means forcing the fells tubes and through print ads and ejecting them through a nozzle typically. And they’re different types of things. Oh geez. There are 3d printers out there today that are typically used in academic situations or in hospital or industrial, perhaps drug testing. But the history of bioprinting has been one of printing, not very large volumes, but perhaps very complicated structures and printing meat, but we fully believe with a simpler prospect than trying to print an organ for transplant.
So yes, this is bioprinting, but it’s not quite the same thing. It’s associated with until quite recently. So our mission is to develop systems that are able to position those fells precisely. And then you’ve got your X and Y. So where on the print bed, do you want the drop of ink to land? And that means you’re positioning your frat or your muscle cell in a particular location, but there’s a challenge.
When one’s printing, certainly with liquid or gelatinous type materials, then there’s a risk of those ink moving around and the structure not necessarily staying in place. So when these to use additional materials, edible materials, of course, to create a scaffold or a matrix for those cells to be held in place.
Because you can imagine when you’re constantly adding material from a boundary or adding those bio-inks from abroad with the cells. If they’ve not been able to be held in place by something, then you’ll get a mess essentially, where everything makes us together. So when we’re working on these sisters, it’s about positioning the cells very accurately in X and Y.
And it’s about printing that supporting structure about actually having a scaffolding, essentially that is added and built along the side. The deposition of those things. To allow for a piece of meat to be made. And our vision certainly is that this allows one type of flexible manufacturing system. You can imagine a factory that they’re able to produce either higher fat content or lower fat content cuts of meat is able ideally to be used then to print different types of meat that would be chicken or beef with the most minimalist.
That one’s able to achieve. And this gives you tremendous flexibility in terms of what’s the market going to need next week. Next month, I can change over the manufacturing in order to meet demand with as little inventory as short of a supply chain as possible, and 3d printing lends itself particularly well to allowing for flexibility with minimum setup.
[00:14:23] Alex: easy to imagine as the general public knows about like desktop 3d printing for kind of small plastic pieces. It’s easy to imagine that you could do that with bioprinting with the scaffold and then filling that scaffold. In my head. That’s clear. One thing I’d like to ask you about is what does it look like when you do scale that, right?
Is it many small printers or is it one large printer? What does that look like? And then as a followup to that, I’d also like to ask you, do you imagine a central facility where all the meat is produced there and then shipped out or more of these little printing hubs close to either larger cities or where the meat is sold?
Any insight on.
[00:15:07] Simon: Yeah. The regular 3d industry, which is a sector that I know very well. Exactly. That question of, you know, do I get a bigger printer? Do I get a faster printer or should I have a rack of maybe simpler, cheaper ones? And both are legitimate ways of scaling your ability to produce. In our case, it’s much a question of a simpler and cheaper option.
So there aren’t really any systems designed specifically for bio-printing meets. There are certainly bio printers out there, but they’re designed to many things. So it’s a bit more of a Swiss army knife type of bio-printer in a sense. And whilst it has many blades, none of them is the best one for that particular job.
It’s about as good enough for certain. So we’re very much focused on large high-throughput systems. Our real focus is on looking at the printer. That’s doing the depositing because what dictates the speed of the printing, you know, obviously amongst other variables is the amount of material that one’s able to eject or deposit in a given time.
Primarily with contactless printing, not with extrusion based printing with really looking for the types of printing technologies that we believe are the most scalable and will be the easiest to maintain. And we’ll expect those systems to be in a large production systems, much more than anything.
That’s a small or a homeowner. So when it comes to how large, and I think it’s very much an open question and I think will depend on different customer’s needs today. The meat industry, particularly in the states is really quite centralized. There aren’t that many meat processing facilities. They’re often very large and they’re really supplying large waves of the country from quite far.
Yeah. We believe that the opportunity here is to benefit from the ability to produce more closely to the point of consumption. So everything that can be reasonably done to bring production facilities, whether that’s the printers or the bioreactors. To bring those in as close as one can, to the point of consumption.
We think that the short thing that supply chain should be able to reduce as much as possible, the CO2 going into the products. We hope that it’s the thing that can also fight that food waste by being able to be that bit more responsive and really benefit from the aspirations to have. A better shelf-life as well, perhaps than the meat that we see today is all aspirational because we’re not on the store shelves yet.
So we fully expect that there will be more well production facilities in time. And what we see in today’s very centralized world. Exactly how that unfolds. It will be exciting.
[00:17:41] Alex: The futurist inside of me is imagining either a restaurant during prep time, or maybe even a butcher shop. Like before the doors open, they have a printer running. The estimated meat for the day.
[00:17:55] Simon: Yeah, I think that’s very much the vision. I mean, the systems we’re working on a sunny larger than what would be relevant for an individual store or restaurants. I think what we’re targeting is this group that will be of relevance, that sort of fizzy level stuff. Um, perhaps the largest step.
[00:18:11] Alex: This next question might be a little bit of a simplistic question, but the curiosity in me does want to ask and maybe there’s no answer yet. As the product is being printed. Is this going to be raw? Right? It would be raw kind of cells. So it would have to be in a particular environment or is there some sort of cooking mechanism during the printing process, any kind of thoughts or anything?
[00:18:36] Simon: Yeah, so the cells are printer and the goal is that the cells are as happy as possible throughout the printing process. So we need the cells to be as unaffected as possible by things like fear forces as they go through the printing nozzles that they don’t get squashed or too hot or too cold. That’s fixed in many of the issues that apply when one’s growing the cells in the bioreactor are essentially carried over as environmental requirements also during the printing process so that the printing is absolutely done with living cells and those cells, one thing been printed into a structure will still require what’s called incubation.
Or we can call it resting or maturing post print. So the cells may well be placed, positioned in where they need to be within a state. But as soon as the printing is done, It still needs to be given a time during which to incubate and for those muscle fibers in particular to further develop, it’s not over just when the printing is done and let the end of the incubation or maturation process.
It’s still a more product. Essentially. The idea is that the cooking is something that one would choose to do either at home or in the restaurant where it’s delivered to. Or of course, if it is then using those products in that process, They mentioned something like a pepperoni slice of chicken or something, or might have on a pre cooked pizza, but could of course cook it in a factory environment.
[00:20:01] Alex: And as of right now, me tech 3d is primarily focused on just creating the equipment and supporting the cultured meat industry opposed to creating and selling a product. For example, in grocery stores, is that.
[00:20:15] Simon: Yeah. So we have a cracking team of biologists and deep expertise in printer development. And our focus is exactly on that. We’re not looking to build out at the presence. At least we’re not looking to build as a retail brand or to fight for space on the shelves. We’re really focusing. Making the technology as, as available as possible to the food prices as of today, and also perhaps the future meter makers of tomorrow.
We certainly see. So this whole industry is obviously garnering a lot of attention and it’s oftentimes in places where they want to have access to meat, but don’t currently have those production capabilities domestically. Maybe they don’t have large grazing areas or they don’t have land that can be used to raise animals.
We fully expect to see this industry and as a result, so we’d expect it to affect me tech as well. Where in new entrants come into this industry, perhaps for different reasons, then how people got into the meat business.
[00:21:09] Alex: As we wrap up, I want to ask you about future announcements from meat. We see claims of companies that they’ll have some sort of product available, whether it’s the actual cultured meat product or supporting products for the industry over the next one or two years, are there any kind of announcements from meat tech about particular dates?
And I just want to say, I quickly scoured the internet and there was something about a pilot plant coming in 2022. Can you shed any light on that or maybe any other dates, arranges for any type of launches or now.
[00:21:44] Simon: Well, sure. So we’re a public company. We have to be very careful about what we do say and predict. So I can only mention that which has been publicly released. And I think those kinds of things would certainly be captured by the pilot plant announcement that we’re planning to have up and running a pilot facility for the production of culture chicken, and that’ll be in Belgium.
So that’s very much leveraging the technologies developed by piece of meat before. And obviously. Then becoming part of music and then now growing those fat cells and suspensions. So they’ve seen some interesting progress recently and that certainly the production goal towards the end of next year, we are also looking to demonstrate printing of 100 gram pieces of steak during 2021 at some point, at least before the end of the year.
So that’s another sort of milestone that’s out there as something that we’re working towards. And then. Of course, we look forward to being able to share our progress on a day-to-day basis, whether that would be taste tests of things that have already been announced and look beginning to look at food technology activities as well, which we announced in Belgium in order to start paving the way for the development of hybrid food products, et cetera, so that we’re in a position to assess.
[00:22:58] Alex: Okay. You can get in touch with Simon on LinkedIn and learn more about me tech at www dot, meet tech 3d, and that’s just with one T Simon. Do you have any last insights for our audience?
[00:23:13] Simon: I have no specific insights, but on behalf of me, type of, for the industry, obviously very excited to have an audience that is impassioned and engaged with this topic submission. I think that’s really important for many of us and good luck to all of them.
[00:23:27] Alex: Thanks for being with us today on the cultured meat and future food show.
[00:23:31] Simon: Thank you.
[00:23:32] Alex: This is your host, Alex, and we look forward to seeing you on our next episode.
[00:23:41] Voiceover: This program was produced by Aych media. We’ll see you soon.
This episode was transcribed using an automated service.