UK-based startup Hoxton Farms announced today that it has raised a £2.7 million (~$3.7 million USD) seed round for its animal-free fat. The round was led by Founders Fund with participation from Backed, Presight Capital, CPT Capital, and Sustainable Food Ventures (hat tip: TechCrunch).
Hoxton Farms is currently in its R&D phase and will use this funding to grow its research team. The company recently built a new lab in London in which it will develop a prototype of its cultured fat. The company aims to have a scalable prototype within 12 to 18 months.
Plant-based meat alternatives often do not contain the fattiness of animal meat. A black bean burger doesn’t sizzle in its own fat while cooking, and a seitan steak doesn’t boast marbled fatty deposits like a ribeye steak. Companies like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods use canola oil, sunflower oil, and coconut oil to achieve a certain degree of fattiness in their products, but it is still not the same as animal fat.
Like other cultured meat companies, Hoxton Farms extracts cells from a living animal without harming or slaughtering the animal. Cultured meat companies extract muscle cells, while Hoxton Farms extracts fat cells. These cells are then grown in a bioreactor to create fat that is identical to animal-fat. The company did not disclose if it will be selling its cultured fat to cultured meat or plant-based alternative companies once it is able to bring production up to a commercial scale.
There are certainly competitors in the cultured meat space, but there are fewer companies solely focused on developing cultured fat like Hoxton Farms. Barcelona-based Cubiq Foods also produces cultured fat, and last year raised $18.4 million USD to scale-up production. Meat-Tech, a start-up based in Israel, announced near the end of last year that it had successfully created a 3D-printed cultured beef fat structure.
If Hoxton Farms is successful in its R&D development, its animal-free cultured fat may be the ingredient that unlocks a new level of plant-based meat alternatives.