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AgFunder closes oversubscribed USD21m alternative protein fund

AgFunder, a foodtech and agtech VC firm, has held the final close of New Carnivore, its alternative protein fund, at USD21 million. The fund was oversubscribed, surpassing its hard cap.

ADM Ventures, the VC arm of the global food and commodities company Archer-Daniels-Midland, invested in the fund. Alexandria Venture Investments, a unit of USD30 billion real estate investment trust Alexandria Real Estate Equities, also participated.

New Carnivore has made seven investments to date, co-investing with leading VCs such as a16z, Breakthrough Energy Ventures, and DCVC, as well as celebrities like Natalie Portman, John Legend, and Jay-Z. The fund is targeting 20 investments overall.

The current portfolio includes:

Nobell Foods (US), a plant-based cheese company using soybean plants to produce casein – one of the key proteins found in cows’ milk that’s responsible for giving cheese its stretch, melt, and mouthfeel.

SIMULATE (US), a plant-based chicken nuggets and patties company that has drawn an almost cult following through its direct-to-consumer strategy.

Alpha Foods (US), plant-based company with versions of favourites like burritos, pizzas, and pot pies.

Mycoworks (US), a cowhide leather alternative using mycelium that has partnered with luxury brand Hermès on a sell-out handbag.

Integriculture (Japan), a picks and shovels producer for cell-cultured meat production, solving one of the emergent industry’s biggest challenges.

Lavva (US), a plant-based yogurt company using pili nuts, a superfood discovered by the founder while treating her cancer.

Fable Food Co (Australia), a vegan meat substitute company using shiitake mushrooms that’s been endorsed by chef Heston Blumenthal.

“ADM is focused on developing innovative new alternative protein ingredients and solutions that centre around nutrition, sustainability and health and wellness to help address the pressing challenge of feeding the world’s growing population,” says Ian Pinner, ADM’s Chief Strategy and Innovation Officer. “Investing in this particular fund allows us to collaborate with new players in the industry and leverage our deep expertise in fermentation to accelerate the commercialisation of new technologies and solutions that can become game-changers in this important market.”

AgFunder’s thesis for New Carnivore rests on the fact that humans have consistently replaced animals with technology throughout history: cars replaced horses, petroleum replaced whales, tractors replaced oxen, and so on. “Food is next,” says Rob Leclerc, Founding Partner at AgFunder.

“Globally, entrepreneurs are reinventing how we make products we’ve traditionally derived from animals. Applying the latest technologies from biotech, tissue engineering, artificial intelligence, and food science, entrepreneurs are creating new animal-free products that are cheaper, healthier, tastier, and more sustainable. Even if they’re moderately successful, they’ll have an opportunity to capture a meaningful portion of the $1.5 trillion animal protein market. Opportunities don’t come much bigger than that,” says Leclerc.

The environmental case is also clear. Animal agriculture accounts for 15-18% of global greenhouse gas emissions, occupies 80 per cent of the world’s agricultural land, and eats one-third of the world’s grain. But it provides only 18 per cent of our calories. Nevertheless, demand for protein is rising all over the world and current animal agriculture systems cannot support that growth without wreaking further havoc on the planet. With increasingly conscious consumers, the creation of social media-enhanced food tribes, the emergence of new technologies, and the rise of mission-driven entrepreneurs, the time for ground-breaking innovation in this category is now.

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