Food technology

Dublin-based Matrix Food Technology leads the way in lab-grown meat

Eating a burger made from lab-grown meat may seem like a futuristic concept, but the research and development of this cutting-edge food technology is happening today – in our own backyards.

Matrix Food Technology, a Dublin City startup, creates products used by companies that produce what is commonly referred to as “cultured meat” or “cultured meat”. The process creates real food products grown from animal cells in a lab, without causing harm or inhumane treatment to real animals.

By 2030, cultured meat is expected to be a $25 billion global industry, according to research by consulting firm McKinsey & Company. Matrix Food Technology CEO Eric Jenkusky was first introduced to the industry in 2019 and co-founded the startup in June 2020.

“We have customers growing beef, chicken, pork, fish, lobster, shrimp and even milk,” Jenkusky said. “It’s real meat, and it’s not genetically modified.”

“At Matrix Food Technology, we design and manufacture three-dimensional nanofiber scaffolds and microcarriers that our customers use to grow and differentiate meat cells,” he said.

What are nanofiber scaffolds?

“Nanofiber scaffolds” are microscopic polymeric materials that have traditionally been used in medical processes to regrow skin, bone and organ tissue in humans. The technology is now being adapted for food production, with the goal of bringing a more sustainable meat creation process to the mass market.

Nanofiber scaffolds under a microscope — Photo courtesy of Matrix Food Technology.

“By 2030, cultured meat could supply up to 0.5% – billions of pounds – of the global meat supply, with implications for multiple sectors,” the McKinsey report states. “Currently, the world mainly eats the meat of animals that are the easiest to farm industrially, but cultured meat will not face these constraints. Instead, industry could select specific animal cell lines with the best traits, such as Wagyu beef or wild salmon, and reproduce them at the same cost as, say, beef patties or tilapia.

The technology being developed at Matrix can also produce meat faster than traditional methods, which usually only takes four to ten weeks.

“You need the cells of a particular atom from an animal or fish that you would like to grow in a bioreactor — my term for a Petri dish,” Jenkusky explained. “Then you need growth factor, which is the ‘food’ for the cells, and scaffolding if you want to have a structured piece of meat.”

In the early stages of the company’s development, Jenkusky and his team at Matrix reached out to potential clients and venture capitalists and found support from New York-based Unovis Asset Management. The startup spun off from Nanofiber Solutions, an existing Dublin-based company that was working with the same kinds of technology for medical purposes.

While nearly 100 companies worldwide are now working on the development of cultured meat products, none have yet reached the level of commercial production.

“There are about 80 companies in the world trying to grow meat,” Jenkusky said. “We’ve spoken to about 50 of them and 28 of them have our product that they’re using to help develop their product.”

The idea behind lab-grown meat is not new. Famously, Winston Churchill predicted in 1931 that “we shall escape the absurdity of culturing a whole chicken to eat the breast or the wing, by culturing these parts separately in a suitable medium”. Almost 100 years later, we have arrived at the dawn of this reality.

“And the future of protein is being developed right here in central Ohio,” Jenkusky said.

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