Plant-based burger maker Impossible Foods has raised a $75 million in Series E funding, with Singapore state fund Temasek leading the round. This marks the fourth agtech investment for the Singaporean state fund and the second investment in a company looking to replace animal products with no-slaughter alternatives.
The startup has now raised $273.5 million in debt and equity in total, making it the best funded alternative protein startup to date. Also participating in this round are existing investors Open Philanthropy Project, Bill Gates, Khosla Ventures, and Horizons Ventures.
Impossible Foods makes a plant-based burger with synthesized heme, the non-protein part of hemoglobin in blood that carries oxygen. This compound ingredient helps Impossible’s burgers cook, taste, and bleed like beef. It obtains heme by genetically modifying yeast and using fermentation to produce a heme protein naturally found in plants, called soy leghemoglobin.
Earlier this month, Impossible Foods received a patent for its use of leghemoglobin in plant-based meat. The 200-person startup says it has more than 100 additional patents pending.
Temasek has made various agtech investments recently, last year investing in VoloAgri, a vegetable seed technology and breeding company, and Modern Meadow, the bio-fabricated leather manufacturer. It’s also invested in StarAgri Warehousing and Collateral Management, an Indian agriculture logistics company.
At Temasek’s 2017 review presentation on July 11, head of strategy Michael Buchanan said about the Impossible burger, “I’ve had a few of their burgers, and even as a very long standing meat-lover, I can tell you they taste really good!”
According to the fund’s website, 4% of Temasek $197 billion worth of investments are in the “life sciences and agribusiness” category.
The most direct competitor of Impossible Foods in the alternative protein space is Beyond Meat, another plant-based burger company, which like Impossible has received funding from Bill Gates. Beyond Meat has raised at least $17 million to date. While total fundraising information was not attainable, it’s understood Beyond Meat has raised a fair bit less than its main competitor.
The only other alternative protein startup that has come close to Impossible Foods’ total funding is Hampton Creek, which has raised $220 million in six rounds to date. A recent walk-out from the entire board less founder Josh Tetrick, along with operating at major losses, have led some to predict the company will run out of money early next year. In a departure from his core business of making food products with a pea-based egg replacement, Tetrick has claimed that he will have a cultured meat product on the market next year.
Impossible Foods has focused its marketing and distribution on high-end food service to date and celebrated chefs like David Chang and Brad Farmerie and a few others began serving the burger at their restaurants earlier this year. More casual burger chain restaurants in New York, California, and Texas began serving the burger in the last few months.
Chef Brad Farmerie, who has been serving the Impossible burger at his New York restaurant Saxon + Parole since February told AgFunderNews, “To be honest, I just see the Impossible meat as a recipe. It’s the same as if you bought a really amazing cured salami …They decided the ratios of those ingredients. They decided how long to age it. And if you look at the Impossible Burger, you’re looking at the same thing. They decided the ratios in it; they decided the amount of hemoglobin. They decide all of those things.”