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Planetary has confirmed it has raised $8.1 million in a seed financing round. Astanor Ventures led the investment, with XAnge, Blue Horizon, Nucleus Capital and more participating. The Geneva-based food tech is planning to use the money raised to complete the design and construction of a flagship site in Switzerland. And transplantable industrial-scale microbial fermentation infrastructure will also be finalized. The latter will produce products for fermentation startups and brand owners under a contract development and manufacturing business model.
Planetary says fermentation is an alternative protein focus that is growing quickly. With almost $1.7 billion in investments secured in 2021, compared to $600 million in 2020, the food tech claims that current global infrastructure is not equipped to meet the anticipated surge in demand. Planetary’s facility aims to be the solution.
The future of animal-free foods?
Fermentation is regarded as an exciting proposition. It offers the potential for scaled manufacturing of diverse proteins, without requiring enormous resources or land. However, Planetary has pinpointed a lack of industrial-scale facilities as creating a bottleneck in progress before it has begun. The startup claims that most bioprocessing sites are booking out for the rest of 2022, with 2023 looking set to follow suit shortly. This translates to a lack of development opportunities for companies that are not able to invest in their own equipment yet.
“By building an interconnected fermentation capacity network, we aim to open global and local market access to fermentation partners whilst reducing their operational risk and capital exposure,” David Brandes, co-founder and CEO of Planetary said in a statement.
In addition to putting significant infrastructure in place, planetary plans to secure manufacturing IP. This will offer future partners peace of mind that their developments remain protected.
The start of Planetary
While construction is being completed on its new infrastructure, the Swiss startup is operating out of its Manufacturing and Innovations Center (MiC). Once industrial scale is attained, it is believed that a network of similar automated sites will be positioned globally, to serve the entire fermentation sector.
“Fermentation technology is essential to creating the alternative protein products that can meet consumer demand for taste and nutrition,” George Coelho, co-founder and partner at Astanor Ventures said in a statement. “Current fermentation capacity is a major hurdle to the development of these products on a large scale. We are excited to support the development of Planetary’s innovative infrastructure technology to address this need.”
Alongside site completion and infrastructure design, Planetary will use its new funding to cultivate a bank of microorganisms and honor its bioprocesses.
Breaking through the fermentation bottleneck
Companies already operating in the consumer sphere confirm what Planetary is saying: that demand is high for alternatives to animal protein. Colorado’s Meati recently observed this when it opened a pre-order round for its fermented mycelium-based chicken cutlets. The entire inventory sold out in under 24 hours, in February. At the end of last month, the company officially opened its online store, while announcing a steak analogue planned to debut soon.
Earlier this month, fellow Colorado outfit MycoTechnology bagged $85 million in a Series E raise. The company leverages fermentation technology to create novel food ingredients that can block bitter notes and enhance plant-based meats.
Looking to solve its own bottleneck is Aqua Cultured Foods. The Chicago native develops vegan seafood analogues using microbial fermentation and recently announced it had managed to double its output capacity. The company attributed its successful evolution to tweaking environmental factors. These are said to have streamlined processes and led to both shorter manufacturing times and higher yields.
Lead photo by Planetary.