US – California based Food technology start-up, Air Protein, has announced a US$32 million Series A funding round led by Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), with participation from Barclays and GV (formerly Google Ventures).

The company, founded by former strategy consultant Lisa Dyson, who also has a doctorate in physics, is built around 1960s-era NASA research about how astronauts could convert carbon dioxide into food.

The space agency looked at hydrogenotrophs — common microbes, some of which live in the human gut — that can be used to turn carbon dioxide into a physical protein.

NASA considered harnessing these microbes to convert the carbon dioxide that astronauts would exhale into something they could eat.

The start-up’s is developing this theory into a unique technology can be used to produce protein in sustainable, vertical farms that can be built virtually anywhere on Earth.

It has for instance developed fermentation vessels- similar to those in breweries- that can rapidly and efficiently convert gases to what looks like a protein-rich flour.

With working technology in its hands, Air Protein says it will use the funding to launch an R&D lab and accelerate its product development and commercialisation. 

Currently, Air Protein is only pursuing meat substitutes and has given photographs showing items that look like chicken substitutes.

 It now wants to perfect the fermentation process to create its signature protein ingredient as well as scale up for the product launch

“With this funding, we will be able to accelerate our work towards providing innovative, environmentally-friendly, highly nutritious alternatives that will play an important role in meeting the growing global demand for alternatives to animal protein,” said Dr Dyson.

“We are commercialising a novel technology platform that is capable of scaling to large-scale production to help feed the world’s 10 billion people by the year 2050, in the most sustainable approach available today.”

Darren Streiler, managing director of ADM Ventures (ADM’s corporate venture capital arm), added: “It’s essential to explore a variety of alternative solutions and options to help meet the growing global population’s demand for protein.

“ADM is a global leader in alternative proteins, and we are excited to help leverage our vast experience with fermentation solutions to help bring Air Protein’s innovative new ideas to the market.”

The ingredients giant has funded several tech-heavy protein startups in recent years, including animal-free dairy company Perfect Day, alternative protein maker Nature’s Fynd and animal-free ingredient producer Geltor.

This experience with startups and its expertise in fermentation for ingredients and developing products will thus be a key in help Air Protein bring its offer to market

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