March 3, 2024
Food tech roundup: Mammoth meatballs, tiger steaks and zebra chops, oh my!


If you’re adventurous with your food, or just like to keep up with the fast-moving food tech industry, here’s a roundup of TechCrunch stories and some notable news we weren’t able to cover.

I came across an interesting story from Vox a few weeks back debating the merits of leveraging cultivated meat technology to make more exotic meats and what that might mean for the animal kingdom.

We may have to blame it on Vow, which made headlines earlier this year for announcing that it made a wooly mammoth meatball.

To that point, NewScientist came out with a story this week stressing that it was time to “stop making lab-grown meat weird.” The author’s point being that if cultivated chicken and beef are mainstream, companies won’t have to resort to gimmicks like meat made of exotic or even extinct animals.

Now that the government is OK with cultivated meat, and restaurants are leaning in, perhaps it’s time. Cultivated meat companies just need to fix that pesky scaling challenge.

Maybe the animals themselves will inspire us: BioCraft Pet Nutrition is making a line of cultivated chicken for pet food. The company said this week it’s tapping into artificial intelligence to make its technology faster and cheaper to develop.

As seen in TechCrunch

Bon Vivant toasts taking $15.9 million to brew up versatile animal-free dairy proteins

My colleague Natasha Lomas wrote a few stories this week. The first is about France-based precision fermentation startup Bon Vivant, which announced €15 million (~$15.9 million) in new funding to continue developing its biotech techniques to reprogram yeast microorganisms to produce animal-free milk proteins. The vision is to produce these proteins with a substantially lower environmental footprint than traditional dairy.

Heura adds ‘York ham style slices’ to its 100%-plant-based vegan mix

Natasha also wrote about Heura, based in Spain, making slices of “ham” that are 100% plant-based. The product is expected to be on store shelves in Spain and France soon. Now while you may be questioning if it tastes like ham, you have to admit that it looks very close to traditional cold cuts.

Wanda Fish navigates VC waters to catch $7M for production of cultivated bluefin tuna

Meanwhile, I wrote about Wanda Fish Technologies, an early-stage company producing cultivated bluefin tuna. The Israeli company recently closed on $7 million in new funding to set its production in motion. Bluefin is a popular meat choice, and Wanda Fish is working on whole cuts of fish filets. At the core of its technology is using muscle and fat cells to replicate the texture, flavor and nutritional value of wild-caught fish.

BlueNalu is also working on cultivated seafood, and this week, also announced $33.5 million in Series B funding.

Khosla-backed HealthifyMe introduces AI-powered image recognition for Indian food

A fun one for you by my colleague Ivan Mehta: Indian health and wellness startup HealthifyMe created an AI-powered feature that automatically recognizes Indian food from images for calorie intake logging, allowing users to track their meal intake more efficiently. It’s not technically food tech, however it reminded me of that episode of “Silicon Valley” where Jimmy O. Yang’s character created the app to tell if a plate of food was a hot dog or not.

Pow.bio says biomanufacturing is broken and its continuous fermentation tech will fix it

Earlier I was referring to the challenges of scaling cultivated meat. Well, last week, I wrote about Pow.bio, a company that aims to help synthetic biology companies manufacture their products at cost parity. It secured $9.5 million in Series A funding to get that going. I got some tips that this market is hot and heavy, so expect to see more. Case in point, Twig, a U.K.-based company, inked an initial funding round of £3 million to develop bioengineering capabilities in that region.

What else I’m reading

For the next time you’re feeling peckish: Meati Foods, which is making meat alternatives using mycelium (mushrooms), entered the snack industry with a line of plant-based, mushroom root jerky. This follows a $50 million Series C, which was its second round this year. Read all about Meati’s earlier round and what it does.

New identity: Tindle Foods, formerly Next Gen Foods, unveiled a new line of plant-based meat and dairy products, including a breakfast sausage product. Check out more.

Our plate is getting interesting: Meet the 11 companies in ProVeg Incubator’s new cohort.

So is our coffee cup: Atomo Coffee unveiled a coffee minus the coffee beans. They aren’t the only ones experimenting with coffee. Meet Compound Foods, also making coffee without beans, Chamberlain Coffee and Green Coffee Co.

Berry delicious: Novella is developing a line of berry-derived bioactives.

Partners: The Every Co. said it and Grupo Nutresa in Colombia will be jointly developing pilot and industrial tests featuring the EVERY EggWhite in Nutresa’s alternative meat product line.

If you have a juicy tip or lead about happenings in the venture and food tech worlds, you can reach Christine Hall at chall.techcrunch@gmail.com or Signal at 832-862-1051. Anonymity requests will be respected.



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