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The Future of Plant-Based Foods?

Startup raises $21.5M to expand production of lemna
Gina Acosta, Progressive Grocer
The Future of Plant-Based Foods?
Last year plant-based food sales were up 27%.

A San Diego food-tech company called Plantible Foods has raised $21.5 million to expand the production of a new plant-based protein.

The natural, plant-based protein called lemna, but more commonly known as duckweed, 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.

With this new funding, Plantible has raised a total of $27 million. The company is looking to ride the boom in plant-based food sales accelerated by the pandemic. Last year plant-based food sales were $7 billion, up 27%. Plant-based meat had $1.4 billion in sales, growing 45% over 2019.

"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." 

Plantible was founded in 2018 by Tony Martens and Maurits van de Ven with the goal of reshaping the world's food supply chain. Over the past year, the company has scaled its production capacity by 150x 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 commercialize 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 10 times more protein per acre than soy, while requiring ten times less water.

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