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Brief: Cell cultured milk startup Brown Foods raises $2.36m from Y Combinator, AgFunder & others

June 9, 2022

Disclosure: AFN’s parent company, AgFunder, is an investor in Brown Foods.

  • US- and India-based Brown Foods has raised a $2.36 million seed round to further develop its milk alternative made using mammalian cell culture technology. TechCrunch first reported the news.
  • Investors to the round include Y Combinator, AgFunder, SRI Capital, Amino Capital, Collaborative Fund as well as a group of individual angel investors.
  • Funding will go towards product development and scaling Brown Foods’ cell cultivation bioprocess. The company told TC it expects to do a “small scale-up” in the next year and have a product on the market within a few years.

Why it matters:

There’s seemingly no end of milk alternatives these days, most of them either plant-based or made via precision fermentation. The list of startups making cell-cultured varieties is smaller but has grown in the last couple of years and now includes names like Wilk (previously Biomilk) and Turtle Tree Labs, among others.

Advocates of cell-cultured milk point to its ability to more accurately mimic the taste and texture of animal-based cow’s milk compared to products that use plant-based ingredients or precision fermentation. And, as Brown Foods’ co-founder and CEO Sohail Gupta told Fast Company earlier this year, the cultivated milk process only involves keeping cells alive in bioreactors rather than growing them, as is the case with cultivated meat.

Brown Foods, a recent graduate of Y Combinator, says its product could also be processed into other alt-dairy items including cheese, butter, and ice creams. The company estimates that its process reduces milk’s carbon footprint by 90% — no small feat, considering the dairy sector is responsible for 4% of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, while livestock emissions overall cause 14.5% of global emissions.

Brown Foods’ plan to disrupt the $700 billion conventional dairy market will be put to the test as the company starts the process of scaling up and eventually bringing its UnReal Milk product to market. 

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