ADM Ventures, a corporate venture capital arm of Chicago-based Archer Daniels Midland Co., was a leader in a $32 million Series A round of fund-raising for Air Protein, a company that produces meat alternatives from the elements of air. Air Protein will use the funding to launch a research and development laboratory, to accelerate product development and commercialization, and to recruit personnel.
“ADM Ventures is focused on investing in startups that are working to improve human and animal health, nutrition and sustainability,” says Darren Streiler, managing director of ADM Ventures. “Air Protein’s novel technology and its mission to provide nutritious, ultra-sustainable protein for humans using elements from the air made this a natural investment that also fit with ADM’s larger mission to develop innovative products to meet growing global demand for nourishing foods and beverages.”
Barclays and GV (formerly Google Ventures) were other top funders.
Lisa Dyson, PhD, chief executive officer, in 2019 founded Pleasanton-based Air Protein, a subsidiary of global research and development company Kiverdi, Inc. Elements from the air, including carbon dioxide, oxygen and nitrogen, are combined with water and mineral nutrients, she says.
“Next, we use renewable energy and a probiotic production process where cultures convert the elements into essential amino acids,” she says. “The output is a nutritious source of protein with the same amino acid profile as animal protein. Finally, to give the protein the texture and flavor of meat, we use a combination of culinary techniques, including using pressure and temperature, like turning wheat flour into pasta.”
ADM’s expertise in fermentation should benefit Air Protein.
“ADM has deep expertise in large-scale fermentation technologies, from alternative proteins to substitutes for petroleum-based plastics, as well as the world’s leading agricultural supply chain,” Streiler says. “We believe our knowledge and ability to scale technology to commercial production can help Air Protein succeed in this rapidly growing market. We are excited to help lead in the creation of new generations of in-demand, sustainable products.”
Air Protein uses less land and water in its production than in beef production.
“Over the period of a year and for the same land area, you can get over 1 million times more protein using the Air Protein technology vs. beef,” Dr. Dyson says. “In addition, the cradle-to-plate greenhouse gas footprint of our protein is negative whereas it is about the same as a car for a cow.”
Air Protein cites the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization prediction that farmers will need to increase food production by 70% with only a 5% increase in land use to meet the food demands of an expected 10 billion people on earth by 2050.