This week Planetarians, the San Mateo-based upcycled ingredient startup, announced that it had closed a $750,000 seed round with participation from Barilla’s venture/innovation arm BLU1877, Techstars, The Yield Lab, SOSV, and a group of angel investors.
Planetarians takes defatted sunflower seeds — the hulls and fiber left behind after the seeds have been pressed for oil — and upcycles them into high-protein, high-fiber flour.
In a phone interview, Planetarians CEO and co-founder Aleh Manchuliantsau told me that for the past few months they’ve been doing tests in the Barilla facility, using their upcycled flour to make crackers, breads, biscuits, tortillas, and, of course, pasta.
“With Barilla, we completed scalability tests in an industrial setting,” Manchuliantsau told me. “Next, we expect to do commercial manufacturing.” The company also just won the Most Innovative Startup Pre-Series A award at the Agfunder Agrifood Tech Innovation Awards, which it announced yesterday.
Planetarians will use its new funding to continue developing and trialing new products. They still have their upcycled chip snacks, which they developed with Techstars last year, and have been working with Italian meat-focused company Amadori to develop flexitarian meatballs cut with their defatted sunflower flour.
Upcycling —that is, turning food byproducts into new edible goods — is becoming quite the CPG food trend as of late. Regrained repurposes spent beer grain as energy bars, Renewal Mill (who just raised $2.5 million) turns leftover soy from tofu into baking flour. Even big players like Tyson Foods have gotten into the food waste game with their Yappah! crisps made of chicken breast trimmings. Clearly by investing in Planetarians, Barilla hopes to get their own piece of the upcycled pie.
Last year Manchuliantsau told me that it can be difficult to get consumers comfortable with eating upcycled food waste products, especially ones typically designated for livestock feed. But having a powerful food corporation like Barilla behind them will help Planetarians push their food to the masses — especially if it’s in the form of pasta.