Impossible? A plant-based burger just won $75m

By Oscar Rousseau contact

- Last updated on GMT

Impossible Foods recently reached milestones on food safety and intellectual property
Impossible Foods recently reached milestones on food safety and intellectual property

Related tags: Beef, Processing and packaging Innovation

Start-up Impossible Foods has secured a “significant” $75m cash injection from investors, including Bill Gates and a Facebook founder, who now back a revolutionary plant-based burger that bleeds.

Flagship product the Impossible Burger​ uses a key protein called soy leghaemoglobin, which recently passed several food safety tests with flying colours and won the company a patent to use the ingredient in plant-based meats.
 
This sparked a flurry of investment activity, with Singapore-based wealth fund Temasek leading the charge. Bill Gates, Khosla Ventures, Horizon Ventures and Open Philanthropy Project – whose main funder is Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz and his wife Cari Tuna – have also invested.

Making meat from plants - the Impossible Foods mission

More investment in the business will help to accelerate its expansion plans, with Impossible Foods working on a new factory in Oakland​, California, that can produce 12 million pounds of meat-alternative burgers per year.

Patrick Brown founded Impossible Foods in 2011
Patrick Brown founded Impossible Foods in 2011

Founded in 2011 by ex-Stanford University biochemistry professor Patrick Brown, the business has been exploring how to meet growing meat demand in a way that does not speed up the impact of climate change.

The business has found a way to make the chemical compound heme – something that is abundant in animal muscle and helps give meat that unique flavour – without slaughtering livestock.

By genetically modifying yeast and using fermentation, the business has unlocked a way to produce a heme protein that is naturally found in plants: soy leghaemoglobin.

The compound is resource-efficient too, as it uses 75% less water, generates 87% fewer greenhouse gases and requires 95% less land than beef cattle, according to Impossible Foods. The burger is also produced without growth-enhancers, antibiotics or artificial flavours.

Our scientists spent so much time and effort studying a single molecule – heme – because heme is what makes meat taste like meat,​” explained Impossible Foods CEO and founder Brown.

It turns out that finding a sustainable way to make massive amounts of heme from plants is a critical step in solving the world’s greatest environmental threat.​”

Related topics: Meat

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