Very interesting. What you haven’t mentioned so far are changes to the recipe or the ingredients. How easy can you incorporate different kinds of proteins or fats into your product?
It's a good question. In theory, it's easy because we have a recipe for the protein, we have a recipe for the fat, we have a recipe for the blood. And instead of the pea protein, let's take it out, put potato protein in and work on the recipe for a month. But right now, we do not like to change the recipe as it brings too much complexity into the process. The process consists of three parts: ingredients, printer, and software.
If we change the software it can be done quickly and easily, with almost no costs. If we change the printer, there is the need for development, purchasing, integrating, and testing. A lot of effort. And if we change ingredients, it might affect all parts of the process.
In the next five years we will make changes to all the elements, but right now we focus on incorporating the feedback via the software to adapt and advance quickly.
When preparing for the interview I read a lot about the challenges of 3D-printing in food. Could you elaborate a little on the challenges you face?
First is complexity in printing. So far, there have only been 3D-printers in history that can handle either multiple components or high viscosity. But we combine both. So, we needed to pioneer that.
Second is food safety as people eat the 3D-printed product. Therefore, we need regulatory approval for all markets we enter.
Third is costs and efficiency. As mentioned before, 3D-printing was originally developed for prototyping a model. Costs and time are less relevant in that context. But in food, we want to eat the model and quite a lot of it. Hence, we need to be fast and produce at scale. And we are able to do it. In our current process we can produce 10kg of 3D-printed food-safe meat within an hour.
So, you would print 10kg of wagyu steak per hour?
We do not directly print the steak, but a larger piece, we call it slab, that is then cut into steaks. The size depends on the kind of steak that is wanted, usually 2-4kg. A ribeye is usually bigger than a tenderloin.
And what do you do with it after printing?
Once, it comes out of the printer, it is treated like normal meat. Cook it, cut it, grill it, whatever is preferred.
And the question of questions: How close would you say are you compared to the “traditional meat” version?
We put a very high bar for ourselves. So, we have a lot of room to improve the quality, the flavor mostly, and to be accurate with the texture and the juiciness. But it's already a great product that chefs in Israel and in Europe have given amazing feedback. Especially in fine dining.