London-based startup Hoxton Farms has a vision of a new kind of farm – one that provides us with the fat that is needed to make food delicious but is completely animal free. The startup has just raised about €22.5 million to build its first pilot facility.
Our diet is changing. Going plant-based, animal-free, and cell-cultured is all now becoming the norm rather than the exception, and it’s thanks to food innovators that are constantly creating ways to make alternative foods that are both delicious, nutritious and sustainable to cultivate.
This evolution of our diets, where we consume less meat and fewer animal-derived products is part of a movement that is aimed at making our diets healthier and more sustainable. It’s about recognising that the food industry is a massive pollutant, and the existing agriculture system is a major contributor to that. It’s a reflection that the world simply can’t sustainably feed a growing population of meat eaters and that for the good of the planet, we need to rethink how we eat. The major stumbling block, though, is creating alternative products that give the same taste, texture and enjoyment.
Hoxton Farms, a startup founded in the UK in London, have a solution to that – cultivated fat and they’re now ready to show how it can push forward the alt-meat market.
Max Jamilly, Co-founder of Hoxton Farms, said: “At Hoxton Farms, we are obsessed with fat. Fat is the single most important sensory component in all of the meat that we eat. Using cultivated fat alongside plant proteins, we have shown that we can make products with the juiciness and flavor that plant-based meat has been missing. We’re now building our pilot plant in central London so that we can show visitors a new way of making the same delicious meat.”
Big fat cheque
The startup has just raised a €22.5 million Series A funding round. The funding was led by Collaborative Fund (an early backer of Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat) and Fidelity’s deep tech fund, Fine Structure Ventures.
Other participants in the Series A round include Systemiq Capital, AgFunder, MCJ Collective, and previous investors Founders Fund, BACKED VC, Presight Capital, CPT Capital, and Sustainable Food Ventures.
Sophie Bakalar, Partner at Collaborative Fund: “At Collaborative Fund, we’ve been investing in better ways to produce meat for over a decade, including in companies like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat. These brands have done a phenomenal job delivering on the protein side of the equation, but we still need a breakthrough in fat to compete with conventional meat on taste, texture, health, and cost. We’re convinced that Hoxton Farms is the company that will deliver on that promise.”
Since its seed round last year, the food innovators have demonstrated the power of its computational platform. The team uses machine learning and mathematical modelling to develop proprietary bioreactors and low-cost animal-free culture media – the nutrient-rich broth used to feed cells. Now that Hoxton Farms has proven the enabling technology for its production platform, the startup is building a 13,000 sq ft pilot facility in Shoreditch, East London, to scale up its manufacturing capacity.
Fat tastes good
For many alternative foods, there can be a sense that something is missing. According to Hoxton Farms, and many chefs and culinary enthusiasts, the answer is the lack of fat.
Existing alt-proteins, whilst advancing all the time, tend to underperform in the taste and texture test due to plant oils. That’s because coconut, sunflower, palm, and canola oil taste a little different, degrade quickly, burn easily, melt inconsistently, and aren’t as healthy as they seem. They’re also guilty of negative environmental implications.
Manufacturers add flavourings and other ingredients to the label in an attempt to make up for the deficiencies of plant oils, but this only makes products unhealthy and unsatisfying.
Jamilly added: “Growth in the plant-based meat market has slowed to a crawl. There is more choice than ever before but consumers miss the delicious flavour and juicy texture of traditional meat. Dollar sales and market share of plant-based meat stagnated in the USA in 2021 and almost 60 percent of US consumers are reluctant to try plant-based meat due to its taste. Animal agriculture has a greater worldwide impact on climate change than transport emissions and occupies 77 percent of all agricultural land even though it supplies only 17 percent of our food. But meat alternatives need significant improvement before we can make a dent in the intensive animal agriculture industry and shut down the last factory farm on Earth. This is where Hoxton Farms comes in.”
To deliver on the promise of meat made in a better way, Hoxton Farms cultivates real animal fat in bioreactors. This cultivated fat can then be used by its customers in combination with plant-based protein, bringing together the best of both cell-cultured and plant-based products – and pushing forward a new era of our dietary evolution. They create blended meat alternatives that give consumers the taste, texture, and nutrition that they expect – and at a fairer price.
The startup is now inviting people to imagine a new kind of farm – one that is capable of producing and cultivating the tastes we want, but without the animals and possible in the heart of a city. Traditional methods for commercial cell culture are based on building larger and larger bioreactors. This approach makes sense for the pharmaceutical industry but it’s no match for the vast scales and low costs needed to produce food. Instead, Hoxton Farms has built a “scaled out” approach using many smaller bioreactors connected through software and automation. The team have proven that this dramatically lowers the cost of producing commercial-scale cultivated fat.
Ed Steele, Co-founder of Hoxton Farms, said: “Cost and scale are two of the biggest challenges in the cellular agriculture industry, but they aren’t talked about enough. Since we started Hoxton Farms, we have been laser-focused on solving these problems and, thanks to our computational approach, have made significant breakthroughs. We’ve also built an incredible team, novel technology and important customer partnerships. Collaborative Fund and Fidelity are the perfect partners as we build our pilot plant and demonstrate our scale-out production process.”
With this funding, Hoxton Farms will be able to launch its pilot facility, as well as to develop its customer partnerships to demonstrate its cultivated fat in products and improve the cost of growing cultivated fat at scale.
Jennifer Uhrig, Partner at Fine Structure Ventures: “We are extremely impressed with the technology that Hoxton Farms has developed. Combining machine learning, biology and engineering has uncovered hidden insights that dramatically improve performance throughout every stage of the production process. The proprietary scale-out approach also removes the risk of scaling beyond pilot and reduces the cost of producing cultivated fat. We are very excited to work closely with the Hoxton Farms team over the next few years.”