Hoxton Farms, a U.K. startup that desires to supply fat without using animals, has raised £2.7 million in seed funding.
The round is led by Founders Fund, the Silicon Valley risk capital firm founded by Peter Thiel and also backed by Presight Capital, CPT Capital and Sustainable Food Ventures.
Still at the R&D stage, Hoxton Farms says it’ll use the funding to grow its interdisciplinary science team during a new purpose-built lab in London’s Old Street. We are going to be working towards a scalable prototype of our cultivated fat over subsequent year to 18 months said by co-founder and mathematician Ed Steele.
He started the corporate with longtime school friend Dr Max Jamilly, who has two degrees in biotechnology and a PhD in synthetic biology (the pair met at pre-school). I spent my PhD employing a genome editing technology called CRISPR to get better treatments for children’s leukemia, says Jamily. Along the way, I learnt the way to grow complex cells at scale a fundamental a part of the scientific challenge that we face at Hoxton Farms.
Like other companies within the meat alternative space, the startup is founded on the premise that the normal meat industry is unsustainable. this is often seeing demand for meat alternatives soaring, but, argues Steele, these products still aren’t ok. They don’t taste right and that they aren’t healthy. they’re missing the key ingredient: fat, he says. And, of course, it’s fat that provides meat most of its flavor.
However, meat alternatives typically use plant oils as a fat replacement, which features a number of drawbacks. Some oils are bad for the environment, like coconut and vegetable oil, and most lack flavour.
Steele explained that at Hoxton Farms we grow real fat without the animals. Starting from just a couple of cells, we grow purified fat in bioreactors to supply cultivated fat, a cruelty-free and sustainable ingredient which will finally unlock meat options that looks like, cook and taste just like the real thing.
Furthermore, he says that current techniques for culturing animal cells are too expensive. Hoxton Farms is using mathematical and computational modelling to “massively reduce the value of cell culture,” which the corporate believes will end in a production process “that is cost-effective at scale”.
Steele. said that we are combining the newest technology from computational biology and tissue engineering to try science that wasn’t possible a couple of years ago, what separates us apart is that the fundamental philosophy that the sole thanks to grow cells cost-effectively at scale is to mix the facility of mathematical modelling with synthetic biology.
It’s envisioned that his computational approach won’t only help it compete with other companies performing on an equivalent problem competitors include Mission Barns within the U.S. and Peace of Meat in Belgium/Israel but also enable it to customize fats for various manufacturers. This might include fine tuning the taste profile, physical properties (melting temperature, density, etc.) and nutritional profile (saturated/unsaturated carboxylic acid ratio etc.).
Meanwhile, Hoxton Farms’ early customers are going to be plant-based meat companies who seek a more sustainable and flavoursome alternative to plant oils. Much further into the longer term, the startup will target cultivated meat companies that grow muscle cells but still need a source of fat, and other industries, like bakery, confectionery and cosmetics.