The New Protein Fund was recently launched by Big Idea Ventures. The US-based venture fund runs four accelerator programmes per year in New York and Singapore.
The aim of the programmes is to support and accelerate the development of up to 100 plant-based and cell-based start-ups working on ‘great tasting’ alternatives to animal-derived protein products.
For Bühler, the investment aligns with an ‘urgent need’ to collaborate in the face of climate and nutrition challenges within the coming years. “Academics, start-ups, and established companies need to come together to innovate and find more sustainable ways to produce food,” said the company’s CTO Ian Roberts.
“This is why we are partnering with Big Idea Ventures: to accelerate the journey for promising start-ups, to reinforce partnerships and start-up ecosystems in Singapore and the US, and to do this with a clear focus on creating a more sustainable food supply for the future.”
Use of international facilities
Bühler joins Tyson Ventures and Temasek, among others, in funding the New Protein Fund.
While the Swiss company is one of three Limited Partners in the programme, Roberts said the partnership with Bühler ‘extends further’.
“We will provide support to start-ups in terms of scale up, technology development, access to facilities and capabilities,” he told FoodNavigator. “We are excited about the possibilities for start-ups to utilise our facilities in Singapore, but also in other regions such as China, Europe, and the USA.”
Indeed, the plant- and cell-based cohort will have access to Bühler’s global network of Food Application Centres, which Johannes Wick, CEO of Grains and Food at Bühler Group, explained was ‘particularly timely’.
The business opened its Food Application Center in Minneapolis this month, where it is introducing new technologies such as the Filtrex solution, specifically for this sector, he said.
The Center will focus on the development of new ways to transform peas, beans, corn, pulses, oats, and ancient grains in new foods, such as flours, snacks, pasta, cereals, and a ‘myriad’ of extruded products, including plant-based meat analogues.
“And [we] will open our joint innovation facility with Givaudan in Singapore later this year,” said Wick. The site will focus on sustainable protein-based products, which Bühler described as a ‘one-stop shop’ for the development and first scale up of new products for market test.
Bühler’s focus areas
When asked whether Bühler will have the option to invest in start-ups throughout the programme, CTO Roberts told this publication it is a possibility. “We are not excluded from entering a deeper business relationship with start-ups, but there is no obligation for the start-ups.”
And concerning particular focus areas, such as dairy alternatives or meat analogues, Roberts said Bühler’s scope extends beyond plant-based proteins.
“We believe that we will need multiple forms of protein if we are to shift to a more sustainable diet. Naturally, plant-proteins are extremely important for this transition, but we have high interest in many other forms of protein including algae, cellular agriculture, fungi, and insects.
“We recognize a major shift in consumer demand, driven by a combination of health, animal welfare and sustainability concerns.”