Cooks Venture, which focuses on regenerative agriculture, announced today that it has raised a $10 million Series A round of funding. The round was led by SJF Ventures and Cultivian Sandbox. Cooks Venture had previously raised a $4 million growth equity seed round and secured $12 million in senior secured debt.
The company, founded by Matthew Wadiak (who previously founded meal kit pioneer Blue Apron), is starting with poultry, breeding and raising its own slow-growth, heirloom chickens. Cooks Venture is different from other poultry companies in that it’s vertically integrated, so the company raises chickens on its 800-acre farm in Arkansas and processes the meat at its own processing plant in Oklahoma.
Cooks Venture is also different in that it adheres to regenerative agricultural practices. As we described the process previously, regenerative agriculture involves “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.”
Meat processing facilities in particular have become hot spots for COVID transmissions. Since Cooks Ventures runs its own, I asked Wadiak how his company has responded to the pandemic when I spoke with him by phone earlier this week.
“We have been very careful from day one,” Wadiak said, “We bought our own facemasks and PPEs.” Wadiak said they even bought their own COVID tests, since there has been so little testing support from the government. “We were zero cases until the Trump rally [in Oklahoma],” Wadiak said, and while there have been some cases, they are “nothing close to big meat numbers.”
Along with the funding news, Cooks Venture also announced a partnership with Food In Depth (FoodID), an organization founded by Bill Niman that aims to provide transparency and accountability in food by testing for antibiotics and “other adulterants” through a real-time proprietary process. With this FoodID partnership, Cooks Venture claims that it is “now the only company that can independently validate that it never uses antibiotics and provides verified Non-GMO feed to its birds,” according to the press release.
Cooks Venture chickens are available around the country via a number of different online and in-store retail outlets. With its new capital, the company plans to scale up further as well as increase R&D into its breeding and regenerative practices.