Air Protein raises $32M to develop a meat alternative out of thin air

Large traders are placing their cash towards an organization making a meat substitute out of skinny air.

ADM Ventures, Barclays and GV (previously Google Ventures) led a $32 million funding spherical for Air Protein, a startup that makes use of fermentation to make a meat alternative out of elements in the air. The corporate, based by former technique advisor Lisa Dyson, who additionally has a doctorate in physics, is constructed round Sixties-era NASA analysis about how astronauts might convert carbon dioxide into meals. 

“With this funding, we will speed up our work in the direction of offering modern, environmentally pleasant, extremely nutritious options that may play an essential function in assembly the rising world demand for options to animal protein,” Dyson mentioned in an emailed press launch. “We’re commercializing a novel know-how platform that’s able to scaling to large-scale manufacturing to assist feed the world’s 10 billion individuals by the 12 months 2050, in probably the most sustainable strategy obtainable right now.”

Air Protein will use the funds to launch an innovation R&D lab, speed up product improvement and commercialization, and recruit a devoted crew. In an electronic mail, Dyson mentioned Air Protein has been been leveraging employees from sister firm Kiverdi, which makes use of comparable know-how for plastic recycling, soil enriching, creating feed for aquaculture and growing closed-loop techniques that reuse different industries’ waste merchandise. Dyson plans to convey on a devoted crew for Air Protein, together with a meat R&D employees, in addition to positions in finance, advertising and HR.

Whereas Air Protein’s total premise could sound like science fiction, it is outlined in a 1967 NASA report about methods to help human life throughout an area mission longer than a 12 months. The house company checked out hydrogenotrophs — widespread microbes, a few of which dwell within the human intestine — that can be utilized to show carbon dioxide right into a bodily protein. NASA thought of harnessing these microbes to transform the carbon dioxide that astronauts would exhale into one thing they might eat. 

In 2016, Dyson gave a TED talk about how the know-how works. After Air Protein was spun off from Kiverdi in 2019, she instructed Meals Dive the corporate had developed fermentation vessels that may quickly and effectively convert gases to what seems to be like a protein-rich flour. She mentioned these services are much like breweries.

Sustainability is among the greatest advantages of Air Protein’s manufacturing course of, which requires only a few sources, Dyson mentioned. It is also one of many key causes traders backed the corporate’s newest financing spherical.

“At GV, we’re drawn to spend money on the way forward for sustainable meals, and Air Protein offers a singular protein supply with confirmed yields and manufacturing effectivity,” Andy Wheeler, common companion on the enterprise arm, mentioned in a written assertion. “Air Protein holds appreciable potential as a contemporary meat different, and we’re wanting ahead to seeing what CEO Lisa Dyson and the founding crew create within the firm’s subsequent part of development.”

At the moment, Air Protein is just pursuing meat substitutes, Dyson mentioned in an electronic mail. She wouldn’t give specifics about potential merchandise or launch timelines, however mentioned “curiosity throughout all doable paths has been large.” Images from the corporate present objects that appear to be hen substitutes.

Since its launch, Air Protein has been working to good its course of and product. Dyson mentioned the corporate spent 2020 growing texture and style profiles, and has had profitable shopper style assessments. It desires to good the fermentation course of to create its signature protein ingredient in addition to scale up for the product launch. Dyson mentioned Air Protein has additionally began the method of getting GRAS certification for its protein ingredient so it may be offered to U.S. customers.

ADM Ventures offers a key partnership to Air Protein by way of this funding spherical. The components large has funded a number of tech-heavy protein startups in recent times, together with animal-free dairy firm Perfect Day, different protein maker Nature’s Fynd — beforehand referred to as Sustainable Bioproducts — and animal-free ingredient producer Geltor. ADM Ventures will use its experience in fermentation for components and growing merchandise for different makes use of to assist Air Protein convey its supply to market, Managing Director Darren Streiler mentioned in a launch

As Air Protein develops its merchandise, it is also growing its messaging. To many customers, meals from air could sound extra like a magic trick than a product. Dyson mentioned the corporate will seemingly be specializing in the product’s excessive protein ranges — it’s about 80% protein — and sustainability. 

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