Planetary wants to help food startups brew up more fake meat

Planetary, a Geneva, Switzerland-based food tech company, is tapping into a new $8 million cash infusion to construct an industrial-scale production facility so that its customers leveraging fermentation technology can create and scale their alternative proteins quicker.

The seed round was led by Astanor Ventures and followed on by a group of investors, including XAnge, Blue Horizon and Nucleus Capital.

As I noted already this week, alternative proteins is a hot space attracting both startups and venture capital. Planetary is primarily working with fermentation companies, those using biomass and precision fermentation techniques to create meat and dairy alternatives. The Good Food Institute reported that this particular sector raised $1.7 billion in 2021, up from $600 million in 2020.

Co-founder and CEO David Brandes started Planetary with Ian Marison, and later brought on Joachim Schulze and Muyiwa Akintoye to provide capacity for both the upstream and downstream production for both microbial precision and mycelial biomass fermentation-based production and aims to create a global network of interconnected production sites across Europe.

This is Brandes’ second venture in alternative protein. Previously, he worked at both Procter & Gamble and McKinsey before moving on to a retailer where he was leading their online business. In 2019, he started at Peace of Meat, which focused on cultivated meat. It was acquired by cellular agriculture company Meat-Tech in 2020.

“Our mission is to provide a sustainable solution to animal mass farming and provide a product that is on a massive industry scale,” Brandes told TechCrunch. “We believe in the potential of alternative proteins and technology and producing products by local available feed stocks.”

Many companies in the alternative protein space are in the technology or product development phase, but scale is what will make-or-break it for some companies. For those ready for that next step, Planetary’s plans include having multiple microbial fermenters capable of producing between 200,000 liters and 500,000 liters of product. The company aims to make that capacity size available for originators and brands so they can go straight into a market without having to have a local presence.

In addition, Planetary “can grow protein entirely on locally produced carbon sources, or sugars, therefore limiting the impact of geopolitical instabilities and turbulence as seen today,” Brandes added.

At the rate the company is going, Brandes expects to have global coverage by 2030 so that Planetary can produce regionally, which adds food security capabilities and sustainability so that it can source feedstock locally.

“We want to be a scaling partner, but there is often a trade off in flexibility and cost leadership,” he added. “We want to start with flexibility and then for cost leadership when we are able to expand.”

Plans are to get the first products through the facility by the fourth quarter of 2023 or early 2024. The company already started planning the facility, but will still need a year for construction.

Brandes also expects the supply chain to look different in two years due to the market being so large and alternative protein products in demand, especially with the need to feed a global population that will be 9 billion by 2050.

Up next, Planetary is preparing to raise another round of funding at the end of the year to further finance the facility and machinery.

“We are also already looking for U.S. manufacturing sites,” he added. “In order to reach our milestones, we will need to build out the critical intellectual property and register it, conclude the design phases for the facility and enter into commercial agreements with originators.”