Farmless, a Dutch startup working on alternative protein sources via fermentation technology, closed on €4.8 million in seed funding. The new investment also comes seven months after Farmless raised a €1.2 million pre-seed round.
Adnan Oner, founder and CEO, started Farmless in 2021. He told colleague Haje Jan Kamps earlier this year that while there are a number of companies working on fermentation-based methods to make food, similar to the way beer is brewed, Farmless’ approach was a bit unique.
Instead of relying on sugar as the standard ingredient, the company uses a liquid made from carbon dioxide, hydrogen, nitrogen and renewable energy. Not only does this process skip the need for agricultural land, but it enables Farmless to brew proteins with up to 5,000x less land than beef.
“This allows for production anywhere in the world, so we can produce our feedstock wherever energy is most sustainable, affordable and abundant,” Oner said via an email interview. “Its liquid form allows us to easily transport to our local breweries, keeping production local with a simple supply chain while increasing food security.”
Over the past 15 months, the company made strides that included building a team of eight people, a small-scale R&D facility and discovering a microorganism it can ferment into different food applications, Oner said.
Meanwhile, the seed round, raised at an undisclosed valuation, was co-led by World Fund and Vorwerk Ventures and included participation from existing investor Revent and a group of angel investors.
In addition to the brewery, Farmless will also use the funds on fermentation technology development, hiring, gaining regulatory approval and setting up a test kitchen to try out new food products.
“Farmless is now working toward commercialization of our first product,” Oner said. This includes partnerships with food companies that can use our product as an ingredient. However, before we can make revenue, we must successfully navigate the regulatory hurdles. With the pilot brewery we will learn the lessons which we can apply for our first-of-a-kind brewery.”
The company is the latest to announce new funding as PitchBook announced Monday that venture capital investment into alternative proteins was $724.32 million in the third quarter, spread across 46 deals. This continues the downward motion in VC investment into the food tech industry since its peak in 2021.
Oner noted there is a wide variety of technologies being developed across the food tech industry, particularly in plant-based, fermentation and cultivated products. However, there remains still gaps in how all of this will ultimately come to fruition. For example, how large-scale fermentation tanks will be built and financed and that the European regulatory approval process “is incredibly slow” — not unlike the United States.
Despite fewer deals being made, there is still excitement for alternative protein technology. Case in point, Farmless’ round closed in September and took less than two months to complete, Oner said.
“Moving away from sugar as a feedstock for fermentation represents a significant opportunity to reduce CO2 emissions of fermentation-based food production,” Dr. Nadine Geiser, principal at World Fund, said in a written statement. “The farming, agriculture and land use category is responsible for around 22% of emissions globally, but receives just 12% of venture funding for climate, so it’s critical we back more startups like Farmless, which has the potential to drastically reduce land use from agriculture, and to improve biodiversity globally.”