London-based Hoxton Farms has raised a £2.7 million seed round to cultivate animal fat and solve a sustainability (and flavor) issue for the rapidly growing market of meat alternatives, which are currently made with eco-unfriendly plant oils.
“We want to bring back fat: it’s the single most important ingredient in the meat that we eat,” defining look and taste as well as how the food actually cooks, according to co-founder Dr. Max Jamilly. “The technology we’re developing will allow us to customise fat for any application – and we’re making it healthier too,” he added.
Starting with a tiny sample of animal cells, Hoxton Farms grows purified animal fat in cultivators, much like the fermentors used for brewing beer. The process is usually expensive and hard to scale, but the UK startup is solving this by using proprietary computational models to reduce the cost.
“We simulate the entire process computationally, from biopsy to bacon. This ‘digital twin’ allows us to optimise every raw input in parallel, massively improving the cost-efficiency and performance,” said other co-founder Ed Steele.
Jamilly, a synthetic biologist and formerly part of Legendairy Foods, and Steele, a mathematician and former machine learning engineer at Thought Machine, met at nursery school over 25 years ago and have been friends ever since. They teamed up in 2020 to build Hoxton Farms against the backdrop of the pandemic.
In the next few months, the startup will begin work at its new R&D lab in Hoxton, and continue to grow its team of biologists and mathematicians.
The funding comes from Peter Thiel’s Silicon Valley VC Founders Fund, along with Backed, Presight Capital, CPT Capital, Sustainable Food Ventures and some angel investors.
Photo: co-Founders Ed Steele and Max Jamilly