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Can a common aquatic plant "remove chickens and cows from the food supply system"?

The Fish Site
by The Fish Site
3 September 2021, at 3:02pm

Plantible foods, which produces protein from duckweed, has secured the closing of a $21.5 million Series A funding round led by Astanor Ventures, a global leader in agrifood impact investing.

The Plantible team afloat on the duckweed in their pilot plant
The Plantible team afloat on the duckweed in their pilot plant

© Plantible

Plantible Foods has now raised a total of $27 million. Other participants in this latest round included Piva Capital, CJ CheilJedang, Good Friends, Bradley Horowitz (SVP of Product at Google), Trevor Martin (Founder of Mammoth Biosciences) and Chris Bryson (Founder of Unata) along with returning investors Vectr Ventures, Lerer Hippeau, eighteen94 capital (Kellogg Company's venture capital fund), FTW Ventures and Unshackled Ventures.

Plantible was founded in 2018 by Tony Martens and Maurits van de Ven with the goal of reshaping the world's food supply chain. Plantible has developed a vertically integrated agricultural platform to produce Rubi Protein from Lemna, more commonly known as duckweed. The natural, plant-based protein emulates the functional characteristics of widely used animal-based proteins and enables food companies to match the taste and texture of animal-based products with more sustainable plant-based ingredients.

"Plantible is not competing with other plant proteins, our goal is to remove chickens and cows from the food supply system," said Tony Martens, co-founder and CEO of Plantible Foods. "We are cultivating a new plant to change the broken food supply chain that was exposed during the pandemic. Currently available plant proteins don't pull their weight when it comes to competing with animal-based products on taste and nutrition. By combining plant science, biochemistry and engineering, we are able to create drop-in replacements for these widely used animal-derived proteins without forcing consumers to sacrifice on either taste or nutrition, paving the way for an accelerated transition towards a healthier planet."

Over the past year, the company has scaled its production capacity by 150 times by building out a small pilot plant and hired 11 more people, bringing the team to a total of 16. With the money raised the company will build its first commercial facility to launch and commercialise its product in 2022.

"Beyond the transition away from animal-based protein, the diversification of plant-based protein sources is fundamental to ensuring that the agri-food system will not depend on a set of monocultures," said Christina Ulardic, partner at Astanor Ventures. "From camping on the farm to the speed at which they have met each milestone since the last funding round, we are continuously impressed by Maurits and Tony's exceptional personal dedication to their mission."

One of the major risks of the existing food supply chain is that the majority of the plant-based proteins are being derived from crops that have annual crop cycles and are therefore vulnerable to climate change. Grown in a controlled environment, Lemna doubles in mass every 48 hours, enabling a consistent daily harvest throughout the year. Additionally, Lemna is considered to be one of the most protein-efficient crops in the world, yielding ten times more protein per acre than soy, while requiring ten times less water.

"Tony and Maurits have tenaciously pursued a unique approach to Lemna cultivation and RuBisCO extraction, producing a plant-based protein that is more affordable, better functioning and more planet-positive than any other protein source," said Bennett Cohen, Partner at Piva Capital. "The market for plant-based protein alternatives will grow to $290 Billion by 2035, as consumers continue to seek the health and environmental benefits of plant-based foods that taste delicious. We look forward to partnering with this exceptional team as they scale commercially."