A UK startup Hoxton Farms wants to produce animal fat without using animals and has just raised £2.7 million in seed investment to make it happen.
The funding round is led by Founders Fund, the Silicon Valley venture capital firm founded by entrepreneur Peter Thiel, with participation of Backed, Presight Capital, CPT Capital and Sustainable Food Ventures.
Hoxton Farms will use the funding to grow its science team in building a new lab in London’s Old Street. The company was founded by school friends mathematician Ed Steele and biologist Dr Max Jamilly.
Co-founder Ed Steele told TechCrunch: “[We] will be working towards a scalable prototype of our cultivated fat over the next year to 18 months,”
"I spent my PhD using a genome editing technology called CRISPR to discover better treatments for children’s leukaemia,” said Jamilly. “Along the way, I learnt how to grow complex cells at scale — a fundamental part of the scientific challenge that we face at Hoxton Farms”.
The startup thinks plant-based meat and dairy alternatives still aren’t good enough because they miss the proper fat that gives them the flavour. “They don’t taste right and they aren’t healthy. They are missing the key ingredient: fat,” Steele says.
Plant oils miss on the flavour and some of them such as coconut and palm oil are also bad for the environment.
“At Hoxton Farms, we grow real animal fat without the animals,” explains Steele. “Starting from just a few cells, we grow purified animal fat in bioreactors to produce cultivated fat, a cruelty-free and sustainable ingredient that will finally unlock meat alternatives that look, cook and taste like the real thing”.
Hoxton Farms is using mathematical and computational modelling to “massively reduce the cost of cell culture,” which they believe will make the production process “that is cost-effective at scale”.
“We’re combining the latest techniques from computational biology and tissue engineering to do science that wasn’t possible a few years ago,” says Steele. “What sets us apart is the fundamental philosophy that the only way to grow cells cost-effectively at scale is to combine the power of mathematical modelling with synthetic biology”
Hoxton Farms’ first customers will be plant-based meat companies who look for more sustainable and tastier alternative to plant oils.