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Agronomics leads USD4m Seed Funding round for California Cultured

Agronomics, a listed company focused on the field of cellular agriculture, has led a Seed Funding Round with a USD2.2 million investment for California Cultured Inc. The financing is in the form of a SAFER (Simple Agreement for Future Equity). Global venture firm SOSV’s IndieBio also participated in the round.

The SAFER is expected to convert into Preferred Stock of California Cultured at a future equity financing round by California Cultured of at least USD4 million. Following an approximate equity ownership of 18.33 per cent on a fully diluted basis. Following the close of the round, Agronomics will have the right to a directorship in California Cultured. Should California Cultured not complete a qualifying financing within 12 months the SAFER will automatically convert into equity.

California Cultured is a food-tech company based in Davis, California, US, which harnesses cell culture technology to produce cocoa products. The application of cellular agriculture for the production of plants or plant-derived ingredients has to date not been extensively commercialised. Using cocoa cell cultures to produce valuable cocoa products, such as cocoa powder, chocolate, cocoa butter and flavanols is considered an exciting opportunity.

Founded by cell-culture technology veterans Alan Perlstein and Harrison Yoon, California Cultured was born out of the tension between the huge market demand for chocolate and the need for more ethical and environmentally friendly methods of production. Approximately 70 per cent of the world’s cocoa supply currently comes from Western Africa (NJAS) – specifically Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire, where according to World Cocoa Foundation, there are concerns over deforestation. The leadership team is rounded out by Head of Commercial Steve Stearns, former chef at Noma, one of the world’s number one restaurants, and COO Debbie Neumann.

Jim Mellon, Non-executive Director of Agronomics, says: “Agronomics are pleased to join California Cultured on their path to commercialise synthetic cocoa products without impeding on the natural environment. Their technology should support stabilising production of cocoa in the future, and has the potential to enable future chocolate demand to be met.”

Alan Perlstein, CEO and co-founder of California Cultured, adds: “Agronomics’ network of resources within biotech along with our mutual interest of radically transforming food and agriculture made them an easy choice as an investor and strategic partner. With Agronomics and our other investors behind us, we are well on our way to changing the way we eat chocolate.”

Po Bronson, Managing Director of SOSV’s IndieBio, adds: “California Cultured’s chocolate tastes absolutely amazing. The cacao cells are grown in the lab very economically, and then they’re made into chocolate in traditional methods. Startups are attacking chocolate’s dark secrets a number of ways, from upcycling ag wastes to using precision fermentation for flavours. But only cell-based chocolate is true, premium chocolate.”

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