First Public Taste Test of Cultured Fish Maw in Hong Kong

Catherine Lamb wrote . . . . . . . . .

For many Western consumers, “fish maw” is an unfamiliar foodstuff. However, in China and other surrounding regions, the ingredient, which is technically the dried swim bladders of large fish like sturgeon, is considered a delicacy. For that reason, it’s both extremely expensive and leading to extreme overfishing. There’s even a black market for the stuff.

In Hong Kong, startup Avant Meats is finding a more sustainable way to feed hunger for fish maw by growing it outside the animal. The company got one step closer to that goal last month, when they did the first public taste test of their cultured fish maw at the Future Food Summit at Asia Society Hong Kong.

The fish maw, grown from cells from a croaker fish, was embedded in a potato ball which was then deep-fried. Obviously we didn’t get to taste it ourselves, but in a video sent to The Spoon taste testers noted the ball’s chewy, gelatinous texture, a hallmark of fish maw. Texture is one of the biggest hurdles for cell-based meat, so if Avant Meats has indeed nailed it that could serve them well as they head to market.

When I spoke with Avant Meats co-founder and CEO Carrie Chan back in March, she explained that they had decided to focus on fish maw as their first product because of it’s simple composition, which allows them to speed up R&D, scale quickly, and come to market at a lower price point. Another reason they chose to focus on fish maw is because of its popularity with consumers in China and Hong Kong, their initial target demographic. However, according to a press release sent to The Spoon, their next product will be a fish filet that is intended for both Eastern and Western menus.

This year has been a busy one for cultured meat companies in Asia. Back in March Shiok Meat debuted its cell-based shrimp in the startup’s home country of Singapore, and Japan-based Integriculture recently did a taste test of cultured foie gras.

American companies like Memphis Meats, JUST, and Wild Type have also done several tastings of their own cell-based products, some on significantly larger scales. However, since cell-based (cultivated?) meat will likely debut in Asia, it’s exciting to see the increase in cultured meat and seafood activity in the area — especially for products developed specifically to appeal to Asian palates.

Avant Meats has raised an undisclosed pre-seed round and has a team of four in its Hong Kong HQ. They’re hoping to reach pilot production by late 2022/early 2023.

Source: The Spoon

Wearable Sweat Sensor Detects Gout-Causing Compounds

There are numerous things to dislike about going to the doctor: Paying a copay, sitting in the waiting room, out-of-date magazines, sick people coughing without covering their mouths. For many, though, the worst thing about a doctor’s visit is getting stuck with a needle. Blood tests are a tried-and-true way of evaluating what is going on with your body, but the discomfort is unavoidable. Or maybe not, say Caltech scientists.

In a new paper published in Nature Biotechnology, researchers led by Wei Gao, assistant professor of medical engineering, describe a mass-producible wearable sensor that can monitor levels of metabolites and nutrients in a person’s blood by analyzing their sweat. Previously developed sweat sensors mostly target compounds that appear in high concentrations, such as electrolytes, glucose, and lactate. Gao’s sweat sensor is more sensitive than current devices and can detect sweat compounds of much lower concentrations, in addition to being easier to manufacture, the researchers say.

The development of such sensors would allow doctors to continuously monitor the condition of patients with illnesses like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, or kidney disease, all of which result in abnormal levels of nutrients or metabolites in the bloodstream. Patients would benefit from having their physician better informed of their condition, while also avoiding invasive and painful encounters with hypodermic needles.

“Such wearable sweat sensors have the potential to rapidly, continuously, and noninvasively capture changes in health at molecular levels,” Gao says. “They could enable personalized monitoring, early diagnosis, and timely intervention.”

Gao’s work is focused on developing devices based on microfluidics, a name for technologies that manipulate tiny amounts of liquids, usually through channels less than a quarter of a millimeter in width. Microfluidics are ideal for an application of this sort because they minimize the influence of sweat evaporation and skin contamination on the sensing accuracy. As freshly supplied sweat flows through the microchannels, the device can make more accurate measurements of sweat and can capture temporal changes in concentrations.

Until now, Gao and his colleagues say, microfluidic-based wearable sensors were mostly fabricated with a lithography-evaporation process, which requires complicated and expensive fabrication processes. His team instead opted to make their biosensors out of graphene, a sheet-like form of carbon. Both the graphene-based sensors and the tiny microfluidics channels are created by engraving the plastic sheets with a carbon dioxide laser, a device that is now so common that it is available to home hobbyists.

The research team opted to have their sensor measure respiratory rate, heart rate, and levels of uric acid and tyrosine. Tyrosine was chosen because it can be an indicator of metabolic disorders, liver disease, eating disorders, and neuropsychiatric conditions. Uric acid was chosen because, at elevated levels, it is associated with gout, a painful joint condition that is on the rise globally. Gout occurs when high levels of uric acid in the body begin crystallizing in the joints, particularly those of the feet, causing irritation and inflammation.

To see how well the sensors performed, the researchers ran a series of tests with healthy individuals and patients. To check sweat tyrosine levels, which are influenced by a person’s physical fitness, they used two groups of people: trained athletes and individuals of average fitness. As expected, the sensors showed lower levels of tyrosine in the sweat of the athletes. To check uric acid levels, they took a group of healthy individuals and monitored their sweat while they were fasting as well as after they ate a meal rich in purines, compounds in food that are metabolized into uric acid. The sensor showed uric acid levels rising after the meal. Gao’s team also performed a similar test with gout patients. Their uric acid levels, the sensor showed, were much higher than those of healthy people.

To check the accuracy of the sensors, the researchers also drew blood samples from the gout patients and healthy subjects. The sensors’ measurements of uric acid levels strongly correlated with levels of the compound in the blood.

Gao says the high sensitivity of the sensors, along with the ease with which they can be manufactured, means they could eventually be used by patients at home to monitor conditions like gout, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases. Having accurate real-time information about their health could even allow a patient to adjust their own medication levels and diet as required.

“Considering that abnormal circulating nutrients and metabolites are related to a number of health conditions, the information collected from such wearable sensors will be invaluable for both research and medical treatment,” Gao says.

Source: California Institute of Technology

Canada Grocer Testing In-Store Robotic Micro-fulfillment

Chris Albrecht wrote . . . . . . . . .

Loblaws, Canada’s largest grocery chain, announced this week that it was piloting Takeoff Technologies‘ robot-powered micro-fulfillment center in one of its stores. Supermarket News reports that the two companies have already started building out the center in Toronto and will fulfill orders for Lawlaws’ PC Express pickup service next year.

Typically built into the back of a retailer, Takeoff’s automated fulfillment centers use a series of totes, rails and conveyors to shuttle food items around. Once an online grocery order comes in, totes automatically bring the items to a human who assembles them into bags that go out to the car. According to Supermarket News, Takeoff’s system can gather grocery orders of 60 items in less than five minutes.

Ideally, micro-fulfillment technology like Takeoff’s allows retailers to convert un- or little-used space into more productive and revenue-generating areas for a store while creating a faster, more convenient online grocery shopping experience for customers. Online grocery shopping is still a small percentage of overall grocery spending, but it’s growing, and automated fulfillment (and the holidays!) could help spur more food shopping from home.

This new partnership expands Takeoff’s reach across North America and into Canada and adds another high profile partner for the startup. Here in the U.S., Takeoff already has a number of pilots going on with Sedano’s, Albertsons, Ahold Delhaize and Wakefern.

While Takeoff has a few partnerships it can point to, there are plenty of automated fulfillment players getting into the game or trying out different approaches to fulfillment. Alert Innovation also builds in-store fulfillment and has partnered with Walmart on a pilot location. Fabric just raised $110 million and moved its headquarters to the U.S. to expand its robotic fulfillment presence here. And instead of inside its stores, Kroger is building 20 standalone robot-powered smart warehouses domestically.

Despite all this, automated fulfillment is still in the early days of testing, and it remains to be seen if and how it will impact a retailer’s bottom line. As more of these systems come online in 2020, we’ll definitely see if they fulfill their robotic promise.

Source: The Spoon

Real Texture for Lab-grown Meat

Lab-grown or cultured meat could revolutionize food production, providing a greener, more sustainable, more ethical alternative to large-scale meat production. But getting lab-grown meat from the petri dish to the dinner plate requires solving several major problems, including how to make large amounts of it and how to make it feel and taste more like real meat.

Now, researchers at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) have grown rabbit and cow muscle cells on edible gelatin scaffolds that mimic the texture and consistency of meat, demonstrating that realistic meat products may eventually be produced without the need to raise and slaughter animals.

The research is published in npj Science of Food.

Kit Parker, the Tarr Family Professor of Bioengineering and Applied Physics at SEAS and senior author of the study, began his foray into food after judging a competition show on the Food Network.

“The materials-science expertise of the chefs was impressive,” said Parker. “After discussions with them, I began to wonder if we could apply all that we knew about regenerative medicine to the design of synthetic foods. After all, everything we have learned about building organs and tissues for regenerative medicine applies to food: healthy cells and healthy scaffolds are the building substrates, the design rules are the same, and the goals are the same: human health. This is our first effort to bring hardcore engineering design and scalable manufacturing to the creation of food.”

Animal meat consists mostly of skeletal muscle (and fat tissue) which grows in long, thin fibers — as can be seen in the grain of a steak or when shredding pork or chicken. Reproducing these fibers is one of the biggest challenges in bioengineering meat.

“Muscle cells are adherent cell types, meaning they need something to hold onto as they grow,” said Luke MacQueen, first author of the study and a research associate at SEAS and the Wyss Institute for Bioinspired Engineering. “To grow muscle tissues that resembled meat, we needed to find a ‘scaffold’ material that was edible and allowed muscle cells to attach and grow in 3D. It was important to find an efficient way to produce large amounts of these scaffolds to justify their potential use in food production.”

To overcome these challenges, the researchers used a technique developed by Parker and his Disease Biophysics Group known as immersion Rotary Jet-Spinning (iRJS), which uses centrifugal force to spin long nanofibers of specific shapes and sizes. The team spun food-safe gelatin fibers to form the base for growing cells. The fibers mimic natural muscle tissue’s extracellular matrix — the glue that holds the tissue together and contributes to its texture.

The team seeded the fibers with rabbit and cow muscle cells, which anchored to the gelatin and grew in long, thin structures, similar to real meat. The researchers used mechanical testing to compare the texture of their lab-grown meat to real rabbit, bacon, beef tenderloin, prosciutto, and other meat products.

“When we analyzed the microstructure and texture, we found that, although the cultured and natural products had comparable texture, natural meat contained more muscle fibers, meaning they were more mature,” said MacQueen. “Muscle and fat cell maturation in vitro are still a really big challenge that will take a combination of advanced stem cell sources, serum-free culture media formulations, edible scaffolds such as ours, as well as advances in bioreactor culture methods to overcome.”

Still, this research shows that fully lab-grown meat is possible.

“Our methods are always improving and we have clear objectives because our design rules are informed by natural meats. Eventually, we think it may be possible to design meats with defined textures, tastes, and nutritional profiles — a bit like brewing,” said MacQueen.

“Moving forward, the goals are nutritional content, taste, texture, and affordable pricing. The long-range goal is reducing the environmental footprint of food,” said Parker.

“The development of cultured meat involves a number of technical challenges, including the formulation of a scaffold material that can successfully support cells and the development of cell lines that are amenable to cultivation for consumption at scale,” said Kate Krueger, research director at the cellular agriculture research institution New Harvest, who was not involved in the research. “The authors of this publication have developed scaffold materials that show great promise in these areas.”

Source: The Harvard Gazette

World’s First Personalised 3D-printed Vitamin Is Here

Akansha Srivastava wrote . . . . . . . . .

If you are a netizen that wanders around the internet in search of something exciting, 3D printing must have caught your attention at one time or another. We’ve all seen the 3D printing videos that pop-up on our feeds and show us how characters, keychains and more can be 3D printed. However, 3D printing is by no means limited only to simple things as the UK-based startup Nourish3d is said to have launched world’s first 3D printed vitamin stack that is tailored as per your requirements.

Why Nourished?

The British startup by Melissa Snover, an Americal serial women entrepreneurs, Nourished is a customisable and personalised nutritional product, which is said to be the world’s first 3D printed edible vitamin stack. It is being introduced in the UK market and consumers will get to choose their favourite vitamins and supplements on the Nourished website by either answering a short lifestyle questionnaire or by simply selecting their own choice of vitamins. Once an order is placed, the startup 3D prints their selection on-demand in the form of chewable stacks. These stacks are said to cost less than conventional vitamins, are less wasteful, and work better.

Melissa Snover, founder and CEO of Nourished, says, “Nourished takes 3D Printing to another level. We’ve kept a keen eye on how consumer demand is driving personalisation across various sectors – from retail to health – and then apply it to nutrition. We’re bringing a truly unique product to the UK market that will change the way consumers think about their nutrition, in much the same way wearable technology has disrupted the personal health market. Nourished is personalised and specific to the individual, is sugar-free, plastic-free, vegan and will be delivered straight to your door. It is the first product in the market to offer such a highly-personalised nutritional solution that everyone can benefit from and it’s our hope that Nourished will transform the way people think about wellness and take care of themselves from the inside out.”

How does it work?

Employing a new 3D printing method and patented vegan encapsulation formula, Nourished is able to combine 7 active ingredients from 28 choices. This means that a user has over 1.2 billion unique combinations to select from and in addition, a new nourishment will be added in about two weeks so that the 7 active ingredients are bumped up to 8. 3D food printing enables the startup to create a chewable vitamin stack that is personalised to an individual’s nutritional needs.

It took 18 months of research and development by CFO Melissa Snover and CTO Martyn Catchpole to come up with a patented 3D printing technology that Nourished employs. Using fused deposition modelling and seven print heads, the duo created an industrial 3D printer that is capable of printing personalised supplements. Like all 3D printers, the one used by Nourished also works on the standard X, Y and Z axis, along with an addition four-rotation axis. Furthermore, it uses a plug and play cartridge retraction system.

About 98 percent of active ingredients used by Nourished are gathered from UK based wholefood sources and are encapsulated in their patented vegan gel formula. As per the company, the nutrients are higher in efficacy and more readily absorbed by the body than most traditional options that are in an isolate tablet form. Since Nourished enables users to create specifically designed blends, fitness enthusiasts can focus on supplementing their diets to boost endurance and recovery, while frequent travellers can boost their immunity, vegans can supplement with Vegan D3 and Iron which can be low in their diet.

Availability

Nourished is making its debut in the UK and its availability is currently limited to the country itself. The product can be ordered online, via the company’s website and it costs £39.99 per month, which boils down to £1.20 per day. Do note that everything made by Nourished is claimed to be 100 percent vegan and 98 percent of their inventory is sourced from the UK.

Nourished developed a sugar-free vegan encapsulation formula which enables a combination of multiple active ingredients that don’t interfere with each other. Vegan and allergen-free, the Nourished base formula is made of natural fruit and vegetable extracts that use pectin as a gelling agent. After 3d printing, the stacks are said to set in minutes and are ready to be coated in sugar free erythritol and malic acid, before packed into plastic free and home compostable packaging.

Funding and expansion plans

3D printers are not in-expensive, especially if you have one that is modified to print food in a manner to your liking. To support its vision, Nourished did a seed round where it achieved its set target and the startup has six strategic angels onboard that not only provide cash but will also help the company with their network and experience, which is expected to be beneficial in the long term. As for external funding, Nourished says it is open to opportunities and funding from strategic investors that are a correct fit for them.

As for expansion, the company has plans to soon expand its services to regions other than the UK. The second market where it has plans to establish is the US, followed by the Middle East.

Source: Silicon Canals