With so much instability in the world right now, it may seem like a tricky time to be raising money for an investment fund. Especially in a burgeoning space like food tech.
But according to Patrick Morris, CEO of Eat Beyond Global, COVID-19 actually presents a ripe opportunity for investment in food innovation. Eat Beyond Global is a Canadian fund focused on food tech, particularly in the alternative protein realm. Morris told me that they plan to make 10-20 plant-based investments ranging in amount from $1 million to $10 million CAD over the next four years with a minimum ownership goal of 5 percent.
Right now Eat Beyond is raising the second half of its initial fund, which will be between $5 million and $7 million CAD. By the end of the year, Morris hopes to raise as much as $30 million CAD.
The fund has whittled down their initial potential investment companies to 5 options and will deploy capital over the next several months. They’re targeting early-stage companies, ones that are “just starting to make an impact,” according to Morris. He hopes the fund will be public on the Canadian stock exchange by Q2 of this year.
Morris wouldn’t divulge the names of the five companies they’re considering, but said that four were focused on plant-based foods (eggs, milk, bread, and ice cream), with one concentrating on cellular agriculture. True to its name, Eat Beyond Global isn’t limiting its investments to Canada; Morris named the U.S., Japan, and England as other areas it’s exploring.
Despite the looming economic uncertainty brought on by COVID-19, alternative protein is one area that has actually seen a lot of investment recently. Over the past month alone, plant-based chicken startup Rebellyous raised $6 million, Singaporean alt-meat company Growthwell Group nabbed $8 million, and Israeli chickpea protein producer Innovopro raised $25 million.
Venture funds are also taking notice. In the U.S. Big Idea Ventures (BIV), which raised $50 million for its New Protein Fund last year, is in the midst of raising a whopping $250 million fund for investment in new technologies throughout the food system.
Clearly, the global pandemic isn’t putting a damper on Tom Mastrobuoni, a Venture Partner at BIV, who told me last week that the coronavirus could actually shed some light on the shortcomings in our food system — and the need for sustainable, tech-driven solutions.
Morris agrees. “The fact that we could close the first half of our financing during COVID-19 — when all hell is breaking loose — shows the strength of the category.”