Alternative protein, from juicy meatless burgers to milk made from legumes, is getting mainstream attention. But so far, only startups and their edible innovations have been in the spotlight. Behind the scenes there are a number of organizations, from investors to non-profits, working to make all this innovation possible.
Here’s a look at a few who are out to create a healthy, humane, and sustainable food system.
Vegan Venture Funds
New Crop Capital was launched in 2016 with a specific focus on the plant-based and cultured meat sector. The New Crop Capital fund is $25M, and they invest this money, often along with other investors, into early-stage companies that promote or produce alternatives to animal agriculture (i.e., the meat, dairy, and egg industries).
The biggest vegan venture fund thus far, Power Plant Ventures, was launched in 2015.
Power Plant VC has $42M fund to invest into early-stage companies that they feel have a strong chance of successfully using technology to create a more plant-based future. Thus far they have invested around $8M in companies like Hampton Creek and Thrive Market.
The team responsible for the fund are not new to the business of vegetables: two of the founding partners of the fund are responsible for Veggie Grill, a successful vegetarian restaurant chain.
Meatless Money and More
With locations in both the US and EU, biotech accelerator Indie Bio is another resource helping alternative protein companies to realize their missions.
Aspiring entrepreneurs with a well thought out idea can apply for the 16 week program. If accepted, Indie Bio provides up to $250,000 in investment and services, plus access to mentors, investors, and lab space.
By focusing on biotech specifically, Indie Bio can provide entrepreneurs with technical expertise as they develop and refine their products.
Like traditional accelerators (you may have heard of YCombinator or TechStars), Indie Bio also focuses on helping their startups prepare for a demo day, or opportunity to pitch their idea and company to an audience of investors.
Part of the reason that alternative protein startups have been able to get the attention of eaters and investors is the vast amount of data available about the negative environmental impact of the current livestock industry.
Another concern for many alternative protein eaters is animal welfare.
One organization, a non-profit called The Good Food Institute, or GFI, is leveraging the research and emotions behind both of these causes to advocate for a food and agriculture system without animals.
GFI is particularly interested in catalyzing alternative protein entrepreneurship, and collaboration is a huge part of their strategy. Through political advocacy, scientific research, and outreach to universities to find the next generation of entrepreneurs, GFI is systematically attempting to lay the groundwork to help startups create a meatless future.
The institute is working with NGOs, like Union of Concerned Scientists; Universities, like the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic and established food companies to advocate for “clean” (i.e. animal-free) products. They are also working with New Crop Capital to find financial support for entrepreneurs.
Growing Concerns Around the Future of Meat
Whether from a nutritional, sustainability, or animal welfare perspective, concerns are increasing over our current production and consumption of animal protein.
Organizations like New Crop Capital, Power Plant Ventures, Indie Bio, and GFI believe technology and entrepreneurship will be the answer, and are pulling out all the stops to build the future food system they believe in.