Today regenerative agriculture company Cooks Venture announced the close of a $12 million senior secured financing round provided by AMERRA Capital Management.
Founded by Matthew Wadiak, the ex-COO of meal kit company Blue Apron, Cooks Venture is an agtech company selling slow growth heirloom chickens with the lofty goal of saving the planet through regenerative agriculture. As we wrote this spring just after the company’s launch:
Chickens are just the first step for Cooks Venture, whose end goal is to show how regenerative agriculture can slow — or even stop — climate change by sequestering carbon in soil. Next up, they’ll start raising and selling cattle, pigs, and vegetables, all sustained on the same plot of land as the chickens.
For now, Cooks Venture has a farm in Arkansas where it raises its chickens and two poultry processing facilities. Their heirloom chickens cost $15 to $20 and are available through the Cooks Venture website as well as FreshDirect (in the Northeast) and Northern California meat distributor the Golden Gate Meat Company.
On the surface, Cooks Venture’s process might not seem all that unusual. Create a farm that grows crops which can be used to feed chickens, all on the same land. What’s so radical about that?
What you might not know (as this author did not) is that the vast majority of American farmland is dedicated to growing crops — often in huge quantities — that are not destined to feed humans, but to feed animals or produce fuel. In order to grow such large quantities of a single crop quickly, farmers often have to rely on agricultural companies which sell seeds that require inputs like fertilizer and herbicides. That isn’t good for us, or the planet.
Regenerative agriculture, on the other hand, looks at soil microbiology plan which crops to grow and sequester carbon in the process. Wadiak argues that it’s more economically viable than relying on seed companies for constant inputs of fertilizer, pesticide, and the like. “It’s a trifecta of wins: for farmers, for us, and for consumers,” Wadiak told me over the phone earlier this week.
So why isn’t everyone growing their food regeneratively? Corn and soy subsidies are partly to blame, but according to Wadiak, the real reason regenerative agriculture isn’t more widespread is because, well, people just aren’t doing it. At least, not at scale.
Wadiak is confident that Cooks Venture can demonstrate that regenerative agriculture is a viable option through its use of technology. The company employs heat unit mapping and data science to predict which crops will grow best in which soil.
Cooks Venture is growing quickly for company that only started a few months ago — they now have over 100 employees — but Wadiak knows that they have a long way to go. “We’re working on multi-multi-year systems,” he said, referring to the timeline for the company to install its regenerative agriculture plan.
That’s where the new funding will come in. Cooks Venture will use it to renovate and expand its 800-acre poultry processing facility to handle up to 700,000 chickens per week. It will also use its new capital to partner with agroecologists in order to develop new sustainable agriculture practices.