Roo meat from test tubes to grow into full scale food business

An newly-emerged Sydney technology company has claimed the honour of developing the world’s first man-made kangaroo meat.

The 18-month-old start-up, Vow Food, has created cultured kangaroo meat grown in a laboratory, using stem cells taken from a kangaroo.

One of the North Parramatta company’s two tissue culture laboratories is a co-shared area at The Kings School, where cells have been grown into kangaroo and pig meat products eventually cooked up as dishes of Tuscan pork ragu and kangaroo dumplings .

Vow, Australia’s first cell-based “fake meat” start-up, hopes to have a commercial product released next year.

It was co-founded by former Cochlear design global lead, Tim Noakesmith, and George Peppou from agricultural and food technology accelerator, Cicada Innovations, a fund raising incubator venture owned by four Australian universities.

Their company fully intends to grow meat for consumption from animal cells and could set the scene for western Sydney to be a national base for the production of fake meat, according to the NSW Government.

NSW Govt’s $25,000 grant

In fact, NSW Minister for Jobs, Investment and Western Sydney, Stuart Ayres, has just backed Vow with a $25,000 Minimum Viable Product grant to help develop its cell-cultivated meat technology.

“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,” he said

“Western Sydney is the perfect base for Australia’s first cultivated meat startup to take forward a global scale opportunity to generate a new food industry together with high-tech jobs in cell-based agriculture.”

Vow has also begun collecting a “Noah’s Ark” of animal cells from around the world to be used to develop new food experiences without endangering native wildlife.

There is plenty of room for traditional meat as well as plant-based and cell-cultured meat to provide greater choice for consumers– Tim Noakesmith, Vow Food

Mr Noakesmith, now Vow’s chief compliance officer, said with global population growth and rising middle classes in developing nations hungry for meat, more protein had to be found to service Australia’s existing and emerging food customer base.

“Growing meat sustainably from stem cells will have a fraction of the footprint of traditional livestock farming in terms of land use and water use and there is no need for culling animals,” he said.

“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.”

But he insisted the test tube meat project was not in competition with traditional livestock farming.

Vow Food's Tim Noakesmith and George Peppou.

 Vow Food’s Tim Noakesmith and George Peppou.

“There is plenty of room for traditional meat as well as plant-based and cell-cultured meat to provide greater choice for consumers,” he said.

“We hope to build a full scale factory in to eventually mass produce many tonnes of cell-cultivated meat each year for Australia and for export.”

Mr Peppou, a one-time chef and now Vow’s chief executive officer, said most food production was sourced from domestic animals, which made up less than one per cent of the world’s animal species.

“There are many unlocked food secrets to explore in the other 99.6pc,” 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.

“We have kicked off collaboration discussions with some top tier Australian chefs to design their own high impact dishes using cultivated meats, and will work with food regulators to hopefully have our first premium product available by the end of next year.”