Plantible’s flagship product is a protein-packed ingredient called RuBisCo extracted from an aquatic plant

Food-tech start-up Plantible has closed a $4.6 million in seed funding. The round was co-led by Hong Kong-based early-stage venture capital group Vectr Ventures and Lerer Hippeau of New York. Kellogg’s venture arm, eighteen94 Capital, and San Francisco-based Food for Thought Worldwide Ventures also join the round.

A US-based B2B business, Plantible’s flagship product is a protein-packed ingredient called RuBisCO or ‘Rubi protein’. The macronutrient is extracted from lemna, an aquatic plant that’s more commonly called ‘duckweed’.

According to Plantible, RuBisCO is significantly more protein efficient than beef (50,000 times), peas (400 times) and soybeans (100 times) and has no additives.

Plantible co-founder Tony Martens explained that not all animal-free proteins are equal. “Food companies need to add a lot of stabilisers to create the desired texture, and sugars, salts and fats to make it taste nice. They lack the nutrition animal-based counterparts have and use funky ingredients people have never really eaten in large volumes before.”

Martens and Maurits van de Ven founded Plantible in 2018. Following on from a $500,000 funding from the existing investors, they bought an algae farm.

The RuBisCO ingredient exists in all leafy greens, but in relatively low levels, hence Plantible has developed a technology to extract the ingredient efficiently.

The food-tech entrepreneurs have chosen lemna for its particular growth ration. Doubling in mass every two days, lemna can be harvested daily, year-round on the company aquaponic farm in San Diego. The growing process also recycles 95% of the water used.

Extraction of RuBisCO removes lemna’s grassy flavour, resulting in a natural, organic and allergen-free protein with a neutral taste, odour and colour that behaves like egg whites. The ingredient can be used for meringues, gels and emulsions in many types of plant-based food and beverages; the company plans to sell it to manufacturers later in this year and launch in the first quarter of 2021.

Van de Ven said the ingredient competes more on nutrition and functionality versus edible form factor.

Building on a B2B business model, the company has performed seven trials in various segments, with positive feedback from all of them.

Plantible is also a portfolio company of FTW Ventures, the venture capital fund founded by Brian Frank.

Date published: 25 May 2020

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