Terviva, a Californian company that produces pongamia trees for their high-quality protein and oil-rich seeds on degraded land, has raised $54 million in equity funding to commercialize its “highly-sustainable, new-to-market culinary oil and plant protein” with global food company Danone.
Danone has frequently shown itself as a leader in exploring environmentally beneficial food production methods, often around regenerative agriculture but also plant-based dairy alternatives. With Terviva, the major food business will explore creating new food products using pongamia, which Terviva says can sequester significant amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, a growing priority for businesses globally.
Sustainable food and agriculture investors backed the round including the Astera Institute, Evans Properties, Trustbridge Partners, and the Jeremy & Hannelore Grantham Environmental Trust.
Also participating were SoBe and Blue Buffalo Pet Food co-founder Ron Edwards; Social Finance chair Brace Young and Landis Becker Young and Brace Young; former Nature Conservancy CEO Mark Tercek; Blue Bottle Coffee executive chair Bryan Meehan; Magid CEO Brent Magid; and Gratitude Railroad founder Howard Fischer.
Terviva, which was founded in 2010, plans to close an additional $24 million in equity and debt before the end of the quarter to further fund this expansion. It estimates it will open a facility to manufacture pongamia-based foods in the US some time in 2022.
The startup works with farmers to plant pongamia trees on idle agricultural land that is often difficult to farm due to poor soil or water stress. The trees are also able to sequester 115 metric tons of carbon per acre over 30 years making pongamia a candidate for carbon negative food production. Terviva says it ranks “among the most sustainable sources of edible oil and plant protein.”
“Terviva’s pongamia-based food ingredients broaden access to healthy and environmentally sustainable foods that directly combat climate change,” says Naveen Sikka, founder and CEO of Terviva. “With our food ingredients, we can feed the planet and heal it at the same time.”
The collaboration illustrates the shared vision of Danone and Terviva to improve the environmental outcomes of the food system by supporting regenerative farming practices that improve soil health, water quality and biodiversity, while also improving social and market outcomes, reads a press release announcing the tie-up.
“We believe that healthy foods need a healthy planet with thriving ecosystems and strong, resilient social structures,” says Merijn Dols, global director of open innovation & circular economy for food of Danone. “This is why we are excited to team up with Terviva to co-develop important ingredients – edible protein and oil — from the pongamia tree, while also rehabilitating the soil the tree grows in.”