Cocuus raises funds to upscale alt-protein 3D bioprinting technology


Spanish start-up Cocuus has raised €2.5M ($2.7M) in its pre-Series A funding round.

The funds will be used to scale up its 3D bioprinting process for producing plant or cell-based animal protein food analogs. 

The company recently completed the Eatable Adventures acceleration program, one of the top three global accelerators for foodtech start-ups. Eatable Adventures has launched more than 25 corporate programs, and has a deal flow of 2,200 global food-tech start-ups each year.

In 2021 Eatable Adventures launched a €50M fund for investing in early-stage food and agriculture tech startups across Europe and Latin America. 

The funding round was led by Big Idea Ventures, the global alternative protein fund, the U.S. multinational Cargill Ventures, Eatable Adventures and Tech Transfer UPV. 

Cocuus said the capital will also allow it to expand into other international markets to create more sustainable and nutritious food products.

Founder and managing general partner of one of the investors, Big Idea Ventures, Andrew D Ive, said: “At Big Idea Ventures, we invest in technology which impacts the alternative protein industry’s entire value chain. Cocuus’ technology addresses a major pain point of structured plant- and cell-based meat production methods: scalability.” 

The process

Last year, Cocuus created synthetic meat cutlets using a 3D printer. The food can be made from a substance based on animal cells, which can come from less usable parts of a cow, or for a vegan market, they can be created in a bioreactor. 

Also, the cutlets can be made using peas.

As well as the meat cutlets, the company can manufacture bacon or lamb ribs in the same way and have been able to replicate the process to develop synthetic salmon fillets. 

The process can be started using a mixture of meat or vegetable substance. However, the company said the initial cells can be formed in bioreactors, through a process that only involves taking a small sample from an animal, and not killing it.

Its stem cells are then used to construct the fibers from which the artificial meat would then be printed. 

The mixture incorporates binders and other substances to give it flavor and allow the food to maintain its structure when being cooked. 

The company said while there is a mix of ingredients, it is only three or four, so it is not so processed.

But how does the company know what to print?

First, a CAT scan is undertaken to find where the fat, meat, bones and vascular pathways are. These images are then translated to vectors, then a 3D-map the printer can work with.

The printing is done with two extruders, one for meat, one for fat. It is a machine with variable geometry, so different shapes can be formed.

Cocuus said the most important part of the equation is that it will be able to manufacture on an industrial scale, thanks to its machinery that can produce 10kg of synthetic meat per minute. To achieve this, the company has designed a machine with 300 extruders working in parallel, which it said is similar to the way pixels create digital images.

Cocuus, along with MOA Foodtech, Proppos, H2hydroponics, and Innomy, has been selected as finalists for the first edition of Eatable Adventures’ acceleration program Spain Foodtech. 

Cows are “the new coal”

According to FAO data, in 2050, in order to feed a population of 9.1 billion, food production will have to increase by 70% and meat production by more than 200 million tons.

Printed meat is just one method of creating alternatives to animal-based products. Others, such as precision fermentation, are a hot topic at the moment as new ways of creating food such as meat and dairy emerge. The goal is to produce food to meet the needs of a growing population, while also reducing the environmental stresses created by traditional animal farming. 

Jeremy Coller, chair and founder of The FAIRR Initiative, an investor network supported by investors managing $52 trillion of assets, said, “The post-COP26 era leaves large parts of the meat and dairy supply chain looking outdated and unattractive. Failures from methane to manure management underline the growing sense in the market that cows are the new coal.”

He added: “As the largest driver of both methane from human activity and deforestation, the ambitions set at COP26 handed a big slice of responsibility to the food and agriculture sector. We cannot deliver the COP26 commitments without addressing the protein supply chain.

“More political and regulatory focus on the food industry is now inevitable, but currently, only 20% of meat and dairy giants measure even some part of their methane emissions. This should be a red flag to markets given the COP26 commitment to reduce methane 30% globally by 2030.”

Cover image: Cocuus

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