Intern delves deep into lab-grown meat

Working from her family's bach, business intern Kahu Tapsell went from being largely unaware of the business of lab-grown meat to something of an expert during her two-month Foundation internship with Singapore company Shiok Meats. In this article she talks about the journey she took and the doors it has opened.
Kahu Tapsell at her desk

Kahu: "My transformation in two short months from knowing nothing about cultivated meat to speaking confidently on the topic was a huge boost to my self-belief and sense of self-efficacy."

I have just completed a two-month journey where I have come out more confident, self-disciplined and with knowledge that is in demand.

The Asia New Zealand Foundation paired me up with Singapore-based Shiok Meats for an eight-week online internship. Shiok make cultivated (or “lab grown”) meat, with a focus on seafood. I was excited about the internship not only because I would be working for a trailblazing company, but also because the work contributes towards an ethical, environmentally sustainable product that could be one of the many solutions needed to combat food shortage and insecurity as we face the worsening effects of climate change.

On top of the cultural and professional interests in Asia, my hobby for video games also pushes me towards the region. I am an avid gamer; I currently sit on the New Zealand Esports Federation Women’s Committee, and I host a series for Dire Wolves who are a professional Esports organisation. With almost half of the world’s 3 billion gamers based in Asia, I am hoping to one day travel to one of the region's big Esports events, where whole stadiums are filled with gamers and the players are treated like rockstars.

Singapore was particularly attractive to me because it has a reputation of being a world entrepreneurial hub. It aligned with my business interests, and my ‘big city dreams’. Unfortunately, with borders closed, the closest I got to Singapore was with my virtual Zoom background of Marina Bay Sands (A resort area of Singapore boasting the island nation's most eye-catching modern architecture).

While it's a shame I could not travel to Singapore to undertake my internship, I now have connections there, a ‘foot in the door’ for both the cultivated meat industry and the Asian market, and invaluable work experience.

A screenshot of a Zoom call with people clapping

For Chinese New Year, the company got together for a dragon building and dancing competition

My project, titled Project Botan Ebi after a Japanese shrimp, was to report on the industry status of cultivated meat and perform a competitive analysis.

Researching this report, I went deeper into a select subject than I ever have before, including my master-level university assignments.

The report ended up being 120 pages long, yet I felt like I could have done more! By the time I gave my final presentation at the end of the internship, I could speak confidently on the subject and answer all questions raised.

My transformation in two short months from knowing nothing about cultivated meat to speaking confidently on the topic was a huge boost to my self-belief and sense of self-efficacy.

We had our fun too. For Chinese New Year, the company split into teams and came together on Zoom for a dragon building and dancing competition.

I tuned in from my New Zealand office (a.k.a., the bach bunk room) and played the drums for my team while they performed their dragon dance. Despite the drums being a plastic bucket that had just been hosed of any residue from its last pipi collection trip, the performance went well, and I closed off with poem encouraging people to make a new year’s resolution of using less waste (we were the Green Dragon team).

The benefits of this internship extend past the two months. After posting about the work I was doing with Shiok on LinkedIn, I was invited to The Inaugural Aotearoa New Zealand Cultured Meat and Seafood Symposium. I have since been approached about consulting on a New Zealand-based project. I was also invited to be a panellist in an online event streamed to University of Auckland Business School regarding the experience and advantages of working in the wider APAC region.

Since taking on the internship provided by the Foundation, I have experienced a domino effect for other opportunities that have been of great personal and professional benefit. Another important benefit of entering the work force through this internship is the safety it provides: the companies have been vetted, and the Foundation was always available to me should I have any concerns with my work conditions.