Wild Earth Completes Seed Funding to Change Pet Food
This week, Wild Earth announced that they closed their seed round of funding. Based in Berkeley, California, Wild Earth is the first pet food startup to use cellular agriculture to produce sustainable pet food. Cellular agriculture is the field of growing animal products, like meat, from cell cultures and eliminates the need to use animals to get those products. Compared to the conventional pet food industry, cellular agriculture provides a more sustainable and safer way to help feed pets a healthy diet.
Wild Earth closed their seed round after raising just under $5 million. This round includes the recent investment of $450,000 by Peter Thiel. Thiel is the co-founder of PayPal and major tech investor, including early investments in Facebook and AirBnb. With these past successes, it is a big deal for Wild Earth that Thiel invested. Beyond Thiel and his Founder Fund’s investment, other investors in the round include Babel Ventures, Stray Dog Capital, VegInvest, Felicis Ventures, Blue Horizon, and Aera VC.
In a recent interview, Ryan Bethencourt, CEO and co-founder of Wild Earth, said that “one of the biggest challenges in pet food is actually the low-quality of the protein itself”. Wild Earth plans to fix that problem by using koji. Koji is a breed of fungi that is a distant relative from mushrooms. Koji is already used in miso soup and soy sauce, and Wild Earth plans to use it as the source of their clean protein. “We want to make sure that we are not just a vegan dog food company. We are a clean protein company that makes clean protein for pets.”
According to Bethencourt, the idea of using koji came together with Wild Earth co-founder Ron Shigeta who would grow koji in the lab. “[Shigeta] was driving me nuts because he always had plates of koji in the refrigerator. Koji grows really quickly, and it can overwhelm bacterial and animal cell plates.” When thinking about what to use as a protein source, it all came together. “My God, the answer was staring at me in the face the whole time! We need to use fungi because we can grow fungi and can do it at a competitive price point in the near future.”
In July, Wild Earth began limited releases of their koji-based dog treats. The company plans to have their dog treats commercially available for sale on their website by October. Wild Earth is also developing a cultured mouse meat for cat food and plan to bring it to the market by 2019. Wild Earth is also working on making a dry kibble dog food that will likely be on the market in the next 3 to 4 months. “I eat our dog food,” Bethencourt said straightforwardly. “I will eat it in front of you because I know what it is. It’s super clean.”