Yali Bio Raises $3.9M Seed Round To Advance Plant Based Cultured Fat Production
Yali Bio, a CA-based food tech company focused on designer fats for plant-based meat and dairy products announced today it has raised a $3.9M seed round, bringing their total funding to $5M. The round was led by Essential Capital with participation from new and existing investors: Third Kind Venture Capital, S2G Ventures, CRCM Ventures, FTW Ventures and First-in Ventures. Stephanie Sher and John Goldsmith also participated as angel investors.
Yali Bio is building a platform to create tailor-made fats that will enhance the quality of plant based meat alternatives. The company combines synthetic biology, deep learning and genomics tools to produce fats that are more sustainable than the oils currently used in plant proteins but on par with their animal based analogs in terms of flavor and texture.
Consumers are looking for products that meet their evolving health and environmental standards. While plant based alternatives have risen to address these demands, these products primarily use coconut oil as a fat which presents both technical and environmental issues. Coconut oil has a low melting point causing it to melt quickly and seep out of the product when heated. This means by the time the product is consumed a lot of the fat has dissipated, resulting in a drier product. Coconut and other commonly used oils also don’t deliver the same unique flavors as animal based meats, so companies have to compensate with flavor additives that lead to complicated labels.
From an environmental standpoint, the production of tropical oils such as coconut and palm oil are major causes of deforestation and habitat destruction in Southeast Asia. And when it comes to its carbon footprint, Yali Bio’s fats produce less than 0.5 kg of CO2 per serving compared to 15 kg for beef, 4 kg for pork, and 2 kg for butter. A well marbled meat consists of 20-25 percent fats, and so fats that taste good, cook well, and are sustainable are essential for progressing the plant based sector.
Enter Yali Bio’s precision fermentation cultured solution. The company is developing proprietary technology that will enable them to develop a pipeline of plant based fats that emulate animal fats and are tailored to a variety of applications. For example, different cuts of steak have varying fat compositions and offer distinct consumer experiences. Using precision fermentation, the company will be able to design fats that achieve the next level of properties and functional experiences for the consumer when it comes to plant based alternatives.
While other companies are focused on making better and more tailored fats, many of them are using cell cultivation techniques which means they have to go through an extensive regulatory approval process. Since Yali Bio is using plant based ingredients, the process is much more straightforward, giving them a faster go to market strategy. “Yali Bio is one of the first companies tackling the issue of plant based fats through precision fermentation,” says Edward Shenderovich, Managing Partner at Essential Capital. “We believe there is a substantial market opportunity for better functioning fats with a smaller environmental footprint and we are thrilled to be working with Yali Bio to bring their solutions to bear.”
CEO Yulin Lu and Chief Scientist Peng Xu saw a perfect opportunity to combine their skill sets when they founded Yali Bio in 2021. Lu’s background is in foodtech and he has held previous roles at Impossible Foods and Eat Just focused on scaling up technology platforms to produce commercial products. Peng’s experience is rooted in synthetic biology and his expertise is in making lipids in microbial systems.
With its seed funding, Yali Bio plans on expanding its R&D, operations and product and business development capacity. According to Chuck Templeton, Managing Partner at S2G Ventures, “High quality fats are currently a major weak point when developing plant-based analogs for animal proteins. We are excited to invest into Yali Bio to improve this crucial component of plant based products with the goal of enhancing the consumer experience while reducing the impacts of conventional animal husbandry.”