Singaporean sovereign wealth fund Temasek has become the latest high-profile investor to back California’s Impossible Foods, leading a $75 million funding round in the Google-backed alternative meat products maker.
The round also included Bill Gates, US venture firms Khosla Ventures and Horizons Ventures, and The Open Philanthropy Project, a non-profit start-up evaluator funded by Dustin Moskovitz, one of the founders of Facebook.
The company, which has now raised more than $270 million in six years, according to Crunch Base, was recently awarded a patent from the US Patent and Trademark Office for its formulation, which uses soy leghemoglobin as the key ingredient in its plant-based meat.
“Our scientists spent so much time and effort studying a single molecule – heme – because heme is what makes meat taste like meat,” Impossible Foods chief executive and founder Patrick Brown said in a statement. “It turns out that finding a sustainable way to make massive amounts of heme from plants is a critical step in solving the world’s greatest environmental threat.”
Impossible Foods genetically engineers yeast to make heme, a protein naturally found in soy roots and uses wheat, coconut oil and potatoes as the primary ingredients in its flagship burger product. According to the company’s website, heme catalyzes all the other flavors when it is cooked.
“We add the soy leghemoglobin gene to a yeast strain, and grow the yeast via fermentation. Then we isolate the leghemoglobin, or heme, from the yeast,” the company explains on its website.
The California start-up has been developing its ‘ground beef’ product since it was founded in 2011 by Brown, previously a biochemistry professor and Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator at Stanford University.
In March, the company announced the opening of its first large-scale facility, a renovated production site in Oakland, California that will enable the company to produce at least one million pounds of plant-based meat per month once it reaches full capacity.
While the burger is the company’s flagship product and the only one currently available to consumers, it is working on developing other types of meat and dairy products, such as chicken, pork, fish and yogurt.
Other investors in Impossible Foods include Google Ventures, Swiss bank UBS and US hedge fund Viking Global.
According to market research firm Markets and Markets, the meat substitutes market is projected to reach $5.96 billion by 2022, at a compounded annual growth rate of 6.6 percent from 2016 to 2022.
In the US alone, total plant-based meat sales exceeded $606 million in sales last year, according to the Plant Based Foods Association.