By Nil Zacharias
Modern Meadow, a Brooklyn-based startup that can grow meat and leather in a lab, has raised $10 million in investment from Hong-Kong based firm Horizon Ventures.
The company aims to help fashion designers and makers of leather goods meet the increasing global demand for their wares without taking such a toll on animals and the environment, reports the Wall Street Journal.
The leather industry, which includes luggage, apparel, and accessories is currently worth over $63 billion annually, and is expected to grow to a $91.2 billion global market by 2018. However, the industry is not only cruel, but also environmentally irresponsible, and is in urgent need for some change.
Modern Meadow plans to transform the industry using a tissue engineering technique called “biofabrication,” to grow leather from skin cells in trays in a lab. The company is also developing biofabricated meat, fish, and poultry from muscle cells. Andras Forgacs, co-founder and CEO of the company, explains that the leather and meat are obtained through small biopsies that don’t hurt, injure, or kill animals. In addition, since ‘biofab’ leather is made in a lab, the “leather” can be grown in different shapes, sizes, thickness, and textures and can be used to make consumer goods like apparel, shoes, accessories, luggage, and sporting goods.
Just some of the reasons that make this technology a better choice include: 99 percent less land required, 96 percent less water consumed, 96 percent fewer greenhouse gases emitted, 45 percent less energy needed, no risk of livestock diseases, and no animals harmed. Those are some statistics we could all live better with.
Currently, it takes Modern Meadow about 1.5 months to make a square-foot leather sample that’s fully finished. That compares to 2 – 3 years to raise an animal, feed it, and provide it shelter.
The company is working on optimizing the production of its biofab leather until it is as affordable as traditional leather and hides, but of a higher quality, without a need for water- and chemical-intensive treatment processes.
To learn more about Modern Meadow’s plan to make leather and meat without killing animals, watch Andras Forgacs’ TED Talk below: