Cooks Venture, a startup focusing on sustainable agriculture and food supply, today announced a $4 million capital raise led by Golden West Food Group. The startup also hired Ankur Agrawal, former VP of Finance for SeatGeek, as its new CFO.
This news comes just three months after Cooks Venture raised a $12 million senior secured financing round. That brings the startup’s total funding to $16 million.
Cooks Venture, which was founded by former Blue Apron founder Matthew Wadiak, has one goal: to promote regenerative agriculture. For those who don’t know, regenerative ag is holistic farming practices that promote healthy soil, low carbon footprints and sustainable animal husbandry. It also skips artificial inputs like fertilizer and pesticide, instead trying to create a self-sustaining loop: the crops feed the animals, the animals create fertilizer, and the fertilizer grows the crops. Etcetera.
So far, Cooks Venture has been moving quickly. The startup began earning buzz in 2019 and has already established an 800-acre farm, hatchery and breeding facility in Arkansas, as well as two processing facilities in Oklahoma.
Its first product is heirloom chickens, which sell from between $15 to $20 a pop (not absurd compared with other organic pasture-raised birds). Cooks Ventures’ “Pioneer” breed of chicken, which is meant to have more flavor than an average supermarket bird, is available online and through FreshDirect. The startup will use its new fundings to expand distribution to more wholesale and retailer partners.
Chickens are just Phase One for Cooks Venture. When I spoke with Wadiak last year he told me that they’ll expand to sell cattle, pigs and vegetables, all of which were cultivated on the same plot of land.
Regenerative agriculture certainly sounds appealing — who doesn’t want to eat food that tastes better and is healthier for the planet? — but it can often be prohibitively pricey (just think of the expensive offerings at your local farmers market). Cooks Venture is trying to break that stereotype and make sustainable products that are actually affordable.
That’s a lofty goal, especially since startup isn’t leveraging agricultural technologies like automation to cut costs. In fact, it’s taking an opposite tack, relying on low-tech traditional solutions to create a viable alternative to environmentally-unfriendly industrial farming.
In short, Cooks Venture is a young David standing up to the Goliath of factory farming — but at least it’s a David with $4 million fresh dollars.