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California-based food tech MeliBio has announced a US$850,000 pre-seed round for its fermentation-based technology enabling the production of real honey without bees. The funding comes ahead of its soft launch slated for the end of this year, before a further commercial roll-out planned for early 2022.
MeliBio, the startup that uses synthetic biology, precision fermentation and plant science to create molecularly identical honey – with the same health benefits and delicious taste – but requiring no bees, has bagged US$850,000 in a pre-seed round of funding. The investment saw participation from Big Idea Ventures (BIV), the accelerator program that MeliBio has graduated from in New York, as well as Joyance Partners, 18.Ventures, Capital V and Sparklabs Cultiv8.
The first alternative protein rolling fund on AngelList, Sustainable Food Ventures (SFV), angel investor Courtney Reum and two impact-driven family offices from GlassWall Syndicate also joined the pre-seed round, MeliBio announced on Tuesday (March 30).
Commenting on the funding, CEO Darko Mandich, who founded MeliBio with Aaron Schaller, PhD in 2020, said: “We are thrilled to have support from the investors who believe in the world our company wants to create. That world is the place where the most delicious and nutritious food is accessible to everyone, but not at the expense of the sustainability of our planet.”
Until MeliBio, innovation was lacking in the alternative honey, with many vegans who avoid the bee-derived product due to ethical and environmental reasons relying on not-quite-the-same substitutes like maple syrup or blackstrap molasses.
With their proprietary technology, the food tech is taking aim at the lucrative US$9 billion money market and its destructive impact on the 20,000 wild and native bee species essential to our planet’s flora and fauna.
“If we don’t bring sustainability through innovation into this industry, it could seriously harm bees and humans. So I decided to move from Europe to California and join the emerging community that is working on producing animal products just without the animals,” Mandich previously explained in an interview with Green Queen Media.
We are thrilled to have support from the investors who believe in the world our company wants to create.Darko Mandich, Co-Founder & CEO, MeliBio
Biodiversity experts have for years raised alarm bells over the consequences of continued decline in pollinators like wild bees, who are different from honeybees. Almost three-quarters of the world’s food crops are dependent on these pollinators and their suffering numbers could pose serious problems for global food security. Some of the crops already vulnerable to the loss of bees are apples, cherries and blueberries, a recent study found.
MeliBio has the real potential to change not just the honey category but the whole sweetener and skincare industries with a new and sustainable way to create real honey without the bees.Andrew D. Ive, Founder & General Managing Partner, BIV
MeliBio says that the funding will fuel its growth, and puts the startup on track to deliver its vegan-friendly honey via a soft launch by the end of 2021 to supply B2B orders it received during its BIV accelerator program. The company is also in discussions with “potential partners from several countries,” and is planning to be able to make a commercial debut by the first half of 2022.
As the first player to be able to develop ethical and sustainable real animal-free honey, investors expect MeliBio to bring the much-needed disruption to not only the food industry, but also the widespread use of honey in skincare, cosmetics and medicine.
“MeliBio has the real potential to change not just the honey category but the whole sweetener and skincare industries with a new and sustainable way to create real honey without the bees. MeliBio has created the first truly vegan honey,” said Andrew D. Ive, founder and general managing partner of BIV.
18.Ventures partner Nik Talreja agreed, saying: “MeliBio’s honey is indistinguishable from traditional bee-made honey, and its properties enable food and cosmetic processors to cost-effectively and scalably introduce a variety of complex sugars into consumer products, with potentially broader appeal.”
Lead image courtesy of MeliBio.