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Vegan protein company Harvest B secured US$3.5 million in its latest seed funding round. The startup is one of the first six Australian companies to be awarded a US$1 million grant from the Australian government.
Investing for a sustainable food system
Australia-based Harvest B’s latest seed funding round was led by W23 Ventures, the investment arm of grocery giant Woolworths and Aura Ventures. Angel investors like food industry investor Fred Leforestier, and mentors at startup accelerator Startmate, Rayn Ong, and Alex de Aboitiz also backed the company.
In addition, the company received a grant from the Australian Federal Government’s Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre (AMGC) Commercialisation Fund. It is the only food company chosen for the first round of this grant along with being the largest recipient. This fund was set up to create a skilled local manufacturing industry to produce high-quality products for domestic and international markets.
This move marks the Australian government’s support for the alternative protein industry, especially given that in 2020 alone, despite the pandemic, retail sales soared 46% year-on-year, further recording a three-digit growth rate in manufacturing revenues and job opportunities.
This takes Harvest B’s total raised capital to US$4.5 million.
In an interview with startup daily, co-founder of Aura Ventures, Eric Chan said: “With the plant-based food sector forecasted by Credit Suisse to grow 100 times larger, it’s never been more critical to build the supply chain to support food brands. Harvest B is the only company we’ve seen that intimately understands the supply chain and has the ability to significantly enable it from right here in Australia.”
With the plant-based food sector forecasted by Credit Suisse to grow 100 times larger, it’s never been more critical to build the supply chain to support food brandsEric Chan, co-founder of Aura Ventures
Develop crops for meat-like plant ingredients
Founded just last year, the B2B startup Harvest B creates animal-free ingredients, supplies them to plant-based meat brands, and is dedicated to building a local supply chain of these ingredients.
Its business model aims to help Australian farmers sell their crops for the plant protein supply chain, which is crucial in the alternative protein industry. Sustainably produced crops like wheat will be used to develop “high-performing ingredients” that match the nutritional properties found in traditional meat. It will then deliver the ingredients across food companies to use in the development of alt protein products.
Its mission is to “accelerate the world’s transition to a sustainable food system”.
“The plant-based category has expanded in recent years as customers look for greater variety in their diets,” said Ingrid Maes, managing director at W23. “It’s important for Australia to develop quality locally grown plant-based protein to help complement our range of proudly Australian grown meat, as well as support local suppliers.”
CEO of Harvest B, Kristi Riordan said: “It’s incredible to have the support of both venture capital and the largest food and everyday needs retailer in Australia. This shows the need to build a local supply chain as well as the opportunity for significant global innovation in novel ingredients. The capital, knowledge and network our investors bring to Harvest B will enable us to invest in the local production and R&D required to rapidly advance plant-based protein ingredient function, taste and nutrition far beyond where it is today.”
Identify the right crops
It currently has an R&D centre in Sydney, with plans to set up a manufacturing facility in NSW. The new capital raised will go towards helping the business manufacture its products on a commercial scale. It will help further broaden its R&D plans to recognize Australian crops that can be incorporated and advanced into high-quality protein ingredients.
Initially, the focus is on Australia, however, the company has its eyes set on the international market as well.
The capital, knowledge and network our investors bring to Harvest B will enable us to invest in the local production and R&D required to rapidly advance plant-based protein ingredient function, taste and nutrition far beyond where it is todayKristi Riordan, CEO and co-founder, Harvest B
Australia’s burgeoning alt protein sector
Given that Australia’s plant-based meat industry is predicted to be valued at AU$3 billion (approx. US$2.3 billion) by 2030, several other homegrown brands are working to capitalise on this rapidly growing sector.
For instance, plant-based meat brand Fenn Foods is famous for its carbon-neutral beef alternative “veef” and several other products like plant-based schnitzel and chicken burgers. v2food is another local food tech that made headlines for its AU$77 million (US$55 million) Series B round, marked as the largest funding round in this sector and has even partnered with Celebrity Chef Neil Perry to curate a vegan menu for his new restaurant.
Lead image courtesy of Harvest B.