The first steaks bioprinted in 3D from meat cells
Last weekend, the COO and founder of Cocuus System Ibérica, Patxi Larumbe, showed what 3D printed meat looks like for the company based in Cizur Menor. The company, which is working together with CNTA on this "industrial-scale" development, can now print cutlets, bacon, lamb ribs, salmon... And it does so at a speed of 8 kilograms per minute. "This project is totally disruptive," the head of the company told NavarraCapital.es. The company is also working on another version based on pea protein.
The announcement came last Saturday afternoon. And it generated a flurry of recommendations and comments on LinkedIn (267 and 68 respectively). In half a dozen images, the COO and founder of Cocuus System Ibérica, Patxi Larumbeshowed the Cizur Menor-based company's 3D bioprinted cutlets, made from meat cells grown in a bioreactor and which the company can print "on an industrial scale". Specifically, at a speed of 8 kilograms per minute. "This project, on which we are working together with the Centro Nacional de Tecnología y Seguridad Alimentaria (CNTA)is a pioneer in the world, something totally disruptive. And it has a Navarrese stamp", he emphasised shortly afterwards to NavarraCapital.es.
The production of these steaks is based on 'food to data-data to food' technology, whereby the pieces are "converted into data" with a CAT scan. They are then put back together by the company's 3D food printers.
Reddish in colour and with whitish fatty parts, these cutlets are one of the latest innovations from Cocuus System Ibérica, whose manager photographed them both raw and once cooked. Larumbe even offered some more details to the people who published their praise, doubts or misgivings about the project.
"We do not solve the problem of making cell cultures, which is still green. We are developing the technology with which to build 3D meat and fish mimics based on cell masses or meat by-products. As we have not yet found a company to supply us with meat cells, what we have done is to dissociate the cells from pieces of meat and recompose the pieces as we think a cutlet, bacon, lamb ribs or salmon might be," he said.
The cutlets presented by the firm's COO are based on a technology ‘food to data-data to food’The new system, in which the pieces are "converted into data" after a computerised axial tomography (CAT) scan. "We needed to know what the internal structure of a steak, salmon or bacon looks like. And the CT scan gives us that information, i.e. it shows us the arrangement of the different elements that make up the piece - muscle, fat and vascularisation. From there, the 3D printers we have for food allow us to control the whole process to reconstruct the piece and we can modify the morphology of the food according to our needs, for example when it comes to reducing the percentage of fat or vascularisation. At Cocuus there is a group of extremely talented scientists - mathematicians, engineers and biotechnologists - who make this happen," he said.
"We are at an early stage, but these are the foods of the future. We are not trying to get someone to eat a 3D steak against their will in a restaurant, but to democratise meat consumption among those who can't access it.
On the way to making this and other initiatives a reality, the firm has been able to count on the collaboration and support of the Centro Nacional de Tecnología y Seguridad Alimentaria (CNTA); Sodena, the Centro Europeo de Empresas e Innovación de Navarra (CEIN)and the regional government, through the Sistema Navarro de I+D+i (SINAI).
"We are still at an early stage, but these are the foods of the future. And the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Navarre has helped us. Our aim is not for someone to eat a steak in 3D in a restaurant or in a rural area against their will, but to democratise the consumption of meat among those who cannot have access to it. And, obviously, as long as they want it. But in time, the chance of a cow living for five years, polluting during that time and producing a certain number of kilos of meat profitably will be very low," he predicted.
To complete his argument, he cited as an example the commercial expansion experienced by gulas in recent decades. "Nowadays, there are many more people buying gulas than elvers. But, at the beginning, nobody would pay a penny for them". And not only that. The company and CNTA are also working on another version of these innovative products made from pea protein. "Bringing chops, bacon or lamb ribs to market for vegetarians and vegans, as well as for those who reject animal death, can serve to offer new alternatives to these groups. And, in both cases, we are talking about industrially scalable production so that they can have a real chance," he added.
MEAT, FISH AND VEGETABLE SHAPED PUREES
Such was the stir generated on LinkedIn by Larumbe that, barely a day later, he decided to announce another of the company's innovations, also formulated "together with the CNTA research team" and whose aim is to make the purées made for elderly people in geriatric homes or for many patients admitted to hospitals more appetising.
Thanks to industrial 3D printers and food ink-jet printing, they take the form of peas, slices of fish, chicken, potatoes... "This is how we solve the enormous challenge of getting them to look forward to eating again," he emphasised.
In fact, this newspaper already published an extensive report on this subject last January, focusing on how Navarre "can be a benchmark in 3D food printing".. This was assured by Nerea Sastreresearcher in R&D at CNTA. At the same time, Leyre UrtasunThe project supervisor in the R&D area of the same centre, defined Cocuus System Ibérica as "one of the most cutting-edge and innovative companies in the sector".
After more than five years manufacturing 3D food printers that the company distributes to restaurants, caterings and other hospitality companies, Cocuus System Ibérica won the first prize in the II edition of the awards Ingenia Startup. These awards are intended to recognise agri-food entrepreneurship and innovation, promoted by the Federación Nacional de Industrias de la Alimentación y Bebidas (FIAB).