Last week, Wild Earth announced that they raised a massive $11 million in Series A 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’s Series A was led by VegInvest, a venture capital firm focused on eliminating animals from the food system. Other investors in the round include Radical Investments, Felicis Ventures, Founders Fund, Mars Petcare, and BitsxBites. This round of funding brings Wild Earth’s total funding to $16 million. Last year, Wild Earth raised $4 million for their seed round.
The funding announcement continues Wild Earth’s great start to the year. In March, Wild Earth CEO and co-founder Ryan Bethencourt went on Shark Tank to pitch Wild Earth’s sustainable pet food. Shark Tank is an American television show where entrepreneurs pitch their businesses to the ‘Shark’ investors. While many shark investors were hesitant, investor Mark Cuban saw an opportunity and made a deal for an investment of $550,000.
With investors like Peter Thiel, Mark Cuban joins a strong team of backers for the pet food startup. Both Cuban’s Radical Investments and Thiel’s Founders Fund invested in Wild Earth’s latest round.
Wild Earth and Koji
In a previous interview, Ryan Bethencourt once said that “one of the 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 and CSO 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.”
Wild Earth now believes that koji-based dog food can help create a sustainable future as the number of pets continue to grow around the world. America’s dogs and cats consume about 25% of all meat sold in the country. A study investigating the environmental impact of pet food found that American pets consume enough meat that they alone would be the fifth most meat-consuming nation in the world. All meat also carries a heavy environmental burden. Specifically, meat consumption by pets is responsible for 64 million tons of greenhouse gases annually.
By using koji-based protein for their dog food, Wild Earth believes they can reduce the amount of meat and the environmental impact associated with animal agriculture.
Wild Earth plans to use the round of funding to accelerate Wild Earth’s development of its koji-protein dog food and treats. As well as announcing the funding round, Wild Earth shared that they will be moving into the Outermost House facility in Berkeley where they will continue to scale their production. Organized by VegInvest, Outermost House is a facility that aims to be the home of sustainable and animal-free foods in the area.
Prior to founding Wild Earth, both Ryan Bethencourt and Ron Shigeta were part of the co-founding team of IndieBio. A leading life science accelerator, they supported startups like Clara Foods, Memphis Meats, and Geltor build their companies. Now, Bethencourt and Shigeta and their team aim to change the future of pet food with Wild Earth. As of October 2018, Wild Earth’s first product, a koji-protein dog treat, is available to order on their website.
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My name is Ahmed Khan, and I am the Editor of CellAgri. Please subscribe to my email newsletter at www.cell.ag to get the latest research and news about cellular agriculture, which I share exclusively with my email subscribers. We are regularly tweeting out interesting articles and thoughts via twitter @Cellagritech