In anticipation of the 50th anniversary of NASA astronauts landing on the moon, Newsweek is spotlighting pioneers in science and technology, highlighting their very own moonshots and how they hope to change the world.
Giuseppe Scionti, the 33-year old founder and CEO of NovaMeat, a Spanish bioengineering startup, is on track to create steak made solely out of plantbased ingredients that mimics the texture, taste and nutritional properties of beef using a patented customized 3D printer. His inspiration to merge biotechnology with food technology stemmed from his work as a tissue engineer and his knowledge of the negative effects of animal farming on climate change.
Scionti has been deemed the inventor of the world’s first 3D-printed plantbased meat substitute.
What is your moonshot?
My moonshot is creating a plant-based beefsteak that will rival real meat in taste, texture and appearance.
Can you describe the product you’re working on?
To create this kind of plant-based beefsteak, you need a new generation of technology. That’s what NovaMeat and I have created. It is true patent-pending technology based on micro-extrusion, which means that we blend the plant and our plant-derived ingredients. The proteins that come from the plant sources can acquire properties similar to ones found in meat—its texture, taste, and appearance. We want to create something nutritious so that it can truly serve as an alternative to a beefsteak.
Why is this different from other meat alternatives?
In the U.S., there are already some very good examples of meat alternatives, especially in the field of burgers, such as the Impossible Burger and the Beyond Meat burger. But they cannot replace the texture of a piece of fibrous meat. Others succeed with the texture of a piece of meat, but not the taste. With the micro-extrusion technology I patented, the fibrous variety of plantbased ingredients retains both.
What does it taste like?
Right now, the taste is still similar to those with plant-based ingredients because we have been focusing on the other properties. We got the texture right, and now we are working on the appearance. We demonstrated that we can include a variety of ingredients, including those necessary for taste. This will get us to our end product, with all the properties of a beefsteak.
What was your inspiration?
I was working in tissue engineering on biomedical applications using bioprinting. I wanted to try to protect our planet by applying those engineering skills so that anyone who wanted could decrease the amount of meat in their diet.
What have you learned from others who have tried to tackle similar problems and projects?
I have always admired people who tried to change the world; even the innovators in the Middle Ages were trying for a moonshot! One of my favorites was Leonardo da Vinci. You can apply innovation to change, like trying to achieve a zero-waste economy and sustainability of livestock. If we wait too long, there will be consequences for the planet that we can no longer solve. For example, I think around 200 animal species become extinct every day!
How close are you to success?
I feel that innovation can provide alternatives for consumers, food corporations and governments. Plantbased substitutes are growing very fast now. Maybe in the next 20 years, 30 percent of all meat consumed may actually be a meat substitute. But it isn’t only the tech itself; you also need to change awareness, which comes from information. People around the world have access to information now that they didn’t have a few years ago. In Sweden, for example, they started “Fridays for Future” strikes where young people in schools strike weekly for climate awareness. I believe not only in my project, but in trying to support other projects and to induce changes.
Who are your mentors?
I have mentors from different disciplines. In the gastronomical field, the chefs at two very important restaurants in Barcelona—Terranova and El Celler de Can Roca—were very helpful. In medicine, the person with the most impact on me is a Spanish professor, Antonio Campos, an innovator in the tissue-engineering field.
How do you picture the world in 20 years if you succeed?
My dream would be to change the world, not by solving the problem of the food industry, but by getting young people to participate in innovative projects that can change the world for the better. This is what I would like to see in a few years and this is where I would like to participate.
FRIES WITH THAT? Scionti (below left) was inspired by his work in tissue engineering to develop patented 3D printed plant-based meat that looks and tastes—and cooks up—just like a real steak.