Benson Hill goes public accelerating plant-based food ingredients technology

By Mary Ellen Shoup

- Last updated on GMT

©GettyImages / Zoya2222
©GettyImages / Zoya2222

Related tags Benson Hill Soy protein plant protein

Benson Hill, a crop improvement company which has developed an ultra-high protein soybean variety, will become a publicly traded company through a SPAC (special purpose acquisition company) transaction with Star Peak Corp II.

The deal will accelerate Benson Hill's proprietary CropOS AI-driven plant breeding technology, strengthen partner development efforts, support product commercialization, and expand into new agri-food markets.

"As a result of this technology innovation and our go-to-market approach, we are now at the launch phase to deliver and help meet the explosive demand for plant-based ingredients that can displace processing steps, reduce additives, and serve as the ‘picks and shovels’ for the plant-based food revolution,”​ Benson Hill CEO Matt Crisp said in a statement. 

The transaction will provide approximately $625m in gross proceeds to the company as well as an oversubscribed and upsized $225m PIPE (private investment in public equity), including investments from funds and accounts managed by BlackRock, Van Eck Associates Corporation, Hedosophia, Lazard Asset Management, Post Holdings, existing Benson Hill investors and affiliates of Star Peak.

Last year, the company closed a $150m Series D funding round​ led by Wheatshef Group and GV (formerly Google Ventures) to expand and commercialize its proprietary CropOS platform, the technology responsible for breeding highly-productive and more nutrient-dense crops such as the company’s ultra-high protein soybeans.

Following the expected Q3 2021 transaction close of the SPAC deal, the combined company will have an estimated enterprise value of  approximately $1.35bn and will be listed on the New York Stock Exchange under the new ticker symbol “BHIL."

“We believe Benson Hill is at the epicenter of the evolution in our food system, with a business model that’s capable of materially transforming the sector by accelerating novel products’ paths to market and scale,”​ Eric Scheyer, CEO of Star Peak, added.

“We furthermore believe that Benson Hill represents an attractive opportunity to capitalize on the scarcity value of high-quality public food technology companies with attractive ESG characteristics.”

Ultra-high protein and nutritionally efficient crops

The food tech company uses its proprietary CropOS technology​​​ – which leverages AI, machine learning techniques, and advanced breeding technologies (including CRISPR gene editing) via its Cloud Biology platform – to breed Non-GMO, ultra-high protein (UHP) soybeans, which according to the company, deliver better digestibility, omega fatty acids, and higher protein content to the end consumer. 

At the crop level, Benson Hill's UHP soybeans deliver 50% more protein than conventional soy, and undergo less processing steps (one crushing step vs. two with soy protein concentrate) creating a more sustainable (as less energy and water is used in the process) and more nutritious soybean variety for use in food and beverage products.

The technology has the potential to shave years off the traditional crop breeding process, shortening the time to market, and decreasing development costs for new food and ingredient products, claims Benson Hill. The CropOS platform currently has a robust proprietary data library that is expected to double in size every year with high-performance soybean breeding data, hundreds of billions of data points to understand natural genetic variation for biodiversity, and 120,000 unique plant genomes across 27 species incorporated to-date. 

Using its CropOS platform, Benson Hill is also working on developing differentiated varieties of yellow pea protein for food and beverage formulation.

Target markets and projected growth

As Benson Hill builds it presence in the plant-based protein ingredients sector, the company has said how it plans to target the booming plant-based meat segment, which is expected to reach $140bn by 2029.

Founded in 2012, Benson Hill generated $102m in revenue in 2020 and is projecting to deliver robust near-term, annual top-line growth of 50% to 100% within its ingredients segment.

Over the longer-term, the company expects its focus on production partnerships, licensing and royalties will help it scale and deliver products across multiple end-markets, including those in animal feed, pet food, and human plant-based food ingredients.

 “Benson Hill is a truly category-defining food technology company, with a game-changing technology platform and a significant and growing addressable market, that’s the first of its kind to go public,"​ added Mike Morgan, chairman of Star Peak.

"We believe Benson Hill is well positioned to be a market leader in the plant-based food revolution and will drive significant benefits for both human health and the planet.”

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