So for your next foodtech quarantine project, may I suggest growing your own meat?
If you don’t know where to start, Japanese company Integriculture has your back. Earlier this month the startup laid out the details of its new CulNet System; a technology that allows individuals and businesses to culture their own animal tissue.
Democratizing cultured meat has always been a goal for Integriculture founder Yuki Hanyu. In fact, Integriculture spun out of Shojinmeat, a DIY maker community focused on cultured meat founded in 2015. Interested hobbyists can already follow Shojinmeat’s guide — which is formatted to look like manga — to grow their own meat, right now.
The new CulNet system builds on Shojinmeat’s DIY framework to introduce a more sophisticated technology. It will allow everyone from restaurants to farmers to, yes, home hobbyists to grow their own animal tissue in larger quantities, with more precision.
Unlike Shojinmeat though, the CulNet System is not quite available yet. Integriculture is still in the R&D phase. It plans to begin licensing out the CulNet System — which includes hardware, animal starter cells, and media to feed cell growth — within the next two years or so. Until then, curious makers can still follow Shojinmeat’s guide to grow their own meat in a small scale.
Hanyu also mentioned at last year’s SKS Japan that the company was planning to release a product called Space Salt, essentially a dried version of cell culture media containing a blend of salt and amino acids, to help home enthusiasts grow their cells more easily. Hanyu said that they weren’t able to launch SpaceSalt last year because of difficulty sourcing ingredients from a factory that would give them a “legally food grade” mark. They’re still working to commercialize it.
The CulNet System is obviously geared to serious at-home makers who have the patience and motivation to tackle something like growing their own meat. But with meat processing plants closing and a meat shortage on the horizon, more and more people are taking a long, hard look at where our meat comes from.
This awareness could help accelerate consumer acceptance of new technologies like cultured meat — whether it’s made at home or by startups like Integriculture, Memphis Meats and Aleph Farms. For its part, Integriculture hosted a private taste test of their first product, cell-based foie gras, in 2019, and plans to start selling it commercially in 2021.
If growing your own animal tissue at home seems like too much work, you could always use this time to learn a new restaurant-worthy recipe, make good use of your smart kitchen gadgets, or even go all-out and develop a new connected appliance. Or just go back to yeast and make something besides sourdough.