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Estonian BioTech startup Gelatex opens Series A round to raise €15M and start producing meat that doesn’t harm animals

Estonian startup Gelatex has invented technology for producing cultured meat without harming animals and opened a Series A round to raise €15M to start pilot production of nanofiber meat.

Imagine spending a day in the cabin in the woods, surrounded by thick greenery. You are enjoying the sunny weather and cooking hamburgers for your family on the grill. After you have finished cooking, you sit down to enjoy your meal. You wave to a nearby deer whose cells might have been used to produce your burger patties. In the bioreactors, without harming any animals.

Since the domestication of the first animals, there hasn’t been much advancement in how we grow meat. And as demand increases, so are the consequences. Over 30% of the world’s land is now used for livestock farming. The sector produces approximately 15% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Despite that, meat is not going anywhere. By 2050, global consumption is projected to reach between 460 million and 570 million tons, doubling since 2008.

Estonian startup Gelatex found an elegant and scientifically backed solution to address those issues. The company, founded in 2016 by material scientist Märt-Erik Martens and Mari-Ann Meigo Fonseca is setting a new benchmark for cultured meat production. Their first mission was to invent a durable textile similar to leather, but since their pivot in 2020, Gelatex has helped to produce cell-based meat efficiently.


One thing led to another

The startup is used to tackle big problems. Their first product prototype, an artificial leather substitute, was made of nanofibers of gelatin. The idea was to give higher value to the abundant waste of meat industries and, this way, get five hides from the same cow. But it lacked durability, and the production was slow. Gelatex solved the issue and invented a novel high-speed technology for nanofibers production.  Some years later, they realized that it is possible to produce meat just from cells much more sustainably without any waste, and their nanofiber technology could help to do that more cost-effectively. To reduce environmental pollution, Gelatex began to produce nanofibers for cultured meat.

This kind of edible scaffolding gives cultured meat a proper structure, texture, and taste. In their original form, cell-based products resemble mush, and giving them proper qualities requires tremendous investments. That’s why until very recently, plant-based substitutes have mainly been used as meat substitutes.

Martens explains that their mission is to bring affordable and delicious cultured meat to ordinary consumers. Using their nanofibre, Gelatex hopes to create a sustainable and environmentally friendly substitute for people who prefer real meat.

I ask Martens if he eats meat. “I do. I’m not a vegetarian. This is also one of the reasons why the technology and mission of cultured meat are so important to me.” Martens has seen problems in the meat industry while working in Gelatex, which is why the company aims to accelerate the production of cell-based meat. “We have a solution for reducing greenhouse gases and methane, for preserving more clean water and land. We will solve the meat problem without harming any animals,” Martens says.

Cultured meat is not exactly a plant-based product: even though Gelatex’s nanofibrous materials on which the cells are grown are plant-based, the cells are extracted from an animal. Compared to conventional meat, the animal stays alive. A 1-gram biopsy is taken from the animal, who is later released back into the woods. Do you remember the deer you were waving to? Its cells can be used to produce tons of meat without harming it. “We are dealing with the Holy Grail of substitute meats,” Marten says. He adds that it is easy to mimic the properties of real meat using Gelatex materials.

Open for investments

You cannot find Gelatex from a deli counter. Gelatex produces thin, felt-like nanofibre for meat substitute manufacturers that is used to create the final product. Gelatex’s nanofibre essentially helps to form a structured product that looks like real meat at a reasonable price.

Just last year, the company was able to bring prices down for its cultured meat scaffolding material to less than 1000 €/kg, Martens told EU Startups. But by 2026, it plans to reach its target of a 40 €/kg price tag and then decrease it to 20 €/kg by the end of the decade.

There are tremendous business opportunities behind such innovations, so people are lining up for Gelatex solutions. Some wish to purchase licenses for the patented machine, while others wish to invest in the company. The company plans to invest 15 million euros in starting pilot production according to food safety requirements in 2024 to ensure their nanofibre will be used in meat substitutes.

To achieve this goal, the nanofibre must meet high standards: it must be edible, biological and clean, as well as have the right texture and taste. “We have already prepared a plan and know what we need to do,” Martens says. Without Gelatex, the production of meat substitutes would be postponed for a long time.

If you share a vision for a greener, more sustainable future and wish to invest in Gelatex, just book a time via our e-Consulting to speak to your personal advisor.

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