Air Protein — a startup using fermentation to make a meat alternative out of elements in the air — just closed a $32 million funding round, according to Food Dive. The round was led by Barclays, GV (formerly Google Ventures), and ADM Ventures.
Founded by former strategy consultant and physicist Lisa Dyson, the company is built around NASA’s 1960s-era research that allowed astronauts to convert carbon dioxide into food.
“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 Dyson in a press release, according to Food Dive. “We are commercializing 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.”
The funding will be used to launch an innovative R&D lab for Air Protein that will accelerate commercialization, product development, along with recruiting a dedicated team.
Air Protein’s new approach to food may seem like something from the future. However, a 1967 NASA report revealed this practice to support human life during space missions lasting over a year.
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After taking a look at hydrogenotrophs — which are common microbes that may live in the human gut — studies determined that they can be used to turn carbon dioxide into a physical protein for consumption. During the study, NASA considered harnessing these microbes to convert carbon dioxide exhaled by astronauts into something edible for them to eat.
Back in 2016, Dyson gave a TED talk about how the technology works when it comes to alternative ways of producing food. According to Food Dive, in 2019, Air Protein figured out how to quickly and efficiently convert gases into what appears to be protein-rich flour through the development of fermentation vessels.
“At GV, we’re drawn to invest in the future of sustainable food, and Air Protein provides a unique protein source with proven yields and production efficiency,” said Andy Wheeler, general partner at the venture arm, in a written statement. “Air Protein holds considerable potential as a modern meat alternative, and we’re looking forward to seeing what CEO Lisa Dyson and the founding team create in the company’s next phase of growth.”
While sustainability is said to be one of the greatest benefits of Air Protein’s production process that doesn’t require many resources, according to Dyson, it’s also what led investors to back the company’s latest funding round.
Currently, Air Protein is only focused on meat substitutes at the moment, Food Dive reports.
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