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Food tech firm MeliBio is making honey without bees using biofermentation. It’s identical to the real thing, but is it vegan?

Food tech is a fascinating thing. Mung bean protein can yield a viscous, bottled liquid that scrambles like conventional eggs. Scientists can create meat alternatives using mycelium, the long, stringy root system of fungi. Someday soon, milk, butter, coffee creamer, and yogurt will be made with vegan milk proteins created via fermentation—ice cream like that is already on the market. And now, California-based MeliBio aims to sweeten the vegan alternatives market with honey made without bees.

MeliBio recently announced the closing of an $850,000 pre-seed round funding.

With this funding, the company will produce “real” honey that’s made without bees. Darko Mandich, MeliBio CEO, co-founder, and eight-year honey industry veteran, tells LIVEKINDLY that no bees are used during the production process. “The technology we are developing is powered by bio-fermentation,” he says.

Conventional honey production is a big issue, Mandich adds.

“Farming bees to produce honey is destroying bee biodiversity and hurting honeybees,” he says.


MeliBio CSO and co-founder Aaron M. Schaller, PHD (left) and CEO and co-counder Darko Mandich (right). | MeliBio

Is it ethical to eat honey?

Honey can be a complicated and controversial food. There are those who avoid it completely while others are comfortable purchasing honey from local beekeepers.

The commercial honey bee industry treats the insects similarly to livestock. There are about 2.8 million in the U.S., averaging 30,000 per colony. But, these honey bee populations affect wild pollinators.

“Reports are showing that the increased population of honey bees is negatively impacting other 20,000 wild and native bee species,” says Mandich.  According to a global analysis published earlier this year, the number of wild bee species has declined by a quarter since 1990.

These colonies put pressure on native pollinator populations that are already in decline, increasing competition for forage. Insect populations, in general, have been declining by 10 to 20 percent every decade, with losses driven by climate change, agriculture, introduced species, and pollution. However, fully understanding the cause of these declines requires more research.

There are more issues tied to these bees, ranging from how they’re transported to pesticide use. And, according to a 2020 study, pollinator declines can lead to decreased crop yields. These crops include apples, blueberries, and cherries.

The global honey market is valued at nearly $10 billion. It is also one of the few growing submarkets of the $100 billion sweeteners market. That, Mandich believes, is why it’s critical to provide an alternative that tastes and functions as honey would. Many plant-based liquid sweeteners fall short when it comes to texture; maple syrup and agave nectar are far too thin. Brown rice syrup is far too thick to be a true replacement for honey. There is also vegan honey.

What sets MeliBio’s honey apart is that it will provide the same micronutrients as conventional honey. MeliBio will offer its product on the B2B segment later this year. This is because many manufacturers make food products that include honey as an ingredient. But Mandich isn’t counting out an eventual retail launch, so you might spot a bottle of real vegan honey down the line.


Riding a wave of growth in the plant-based food and seafood analog market, Gathered Foods’ Good Catch brand has secured USD 26.35 million (EUR 22 million) in its most recent funding round. Major investors include fish feed and agricultural goods giant Louis Dreyfus Company (LDC), Unovis Asset Management, and Big Idea Ventures.

“We are excited to have this important investment by LDC, a well-respected leader in the agricultural, food and ingredients space, to help fuel growth and expansion of our company,” Gathered Foods CEO Christine Mei said in a press release. “Partnering with proven companies who are innovators in their own right can only sharpen our ability to positively disrupt a nascent industry with our innovative portfolio of Good Catch products.”

As demand for plant-based seafood analogs continues to rise, Gathered Foods is looking forward to collaborating with LDC “to create breakthrough opportunities,” Mei said.

Gathered Foods will use the new round of funding to ramp up product innovation and “dramatically increase the number of Good Catch products on the market,” the company said.

The supplier will also extend its international retail footprint, beginning in Europe, with further expansion planned for later this year. Gathered Foods is working with key European distributors to bring Good Catch products to more consumers through strategic retail and foodservice partnerships.

Last year, the company secured USD 36.8 million (EUR 31 million) in funding and opened a plant-based production facility in Heath, Ohio.

Good Catch products are available across the U.S., in the U.K. through a partnership with Tesco, in Canada through partnerships with Loblaws and Sobeys, and in Europe throughout retailers in the Netherlands and Spain.

Good Catch’s large funding haul comes as investors rush into the fast- plant-based food market in the U.S. and globally. U.S. plant-based food analog retail sales soared 27 percent to USD 7 billion (EUR 5.9 billion) in 2020, according to new SPINS data released the Good Food Institute and the Plant Based Foods Association (PBFA).

Plant-based meat analog sales spiked 45 percent to USD 1.4 billion (EUR 1.4 billion in sales, and now make up 2.7 percent of all U.S. retail packaged meat sales, according to SPINS. Refrigerated plant-based meat analog sales soared 75 percent in 2020.

The plant-based protein market is projected to be worth USD 21.23 billion (EUR 17.8 billion) globally by 2027, according to Meticulous Research.

SOURCE SeafoodSource

The alternative protein industry, which includes cell-based and plant-based companies, has been mushrooming over the last few years spurring a movement to change the way we eat. The products may be different but their collective goal is to repair our broken food systems and achieve a more sustainable future by reducing global meat consumption and replacing them with other protein-rich solutions.

Food security is a precarious issue especially in Singapore where arable land is scarce and produce is generally imported. However, the government is strategically focusing on producing 30 per cent of the population’s nutritional needs by 2030 through an innovative route. With scores of industry experts, like-minded investors, and an open-minded dining scene, Singapore offers a promising ecosystem for the following food tech companies to thrive and launch their global crusade to change how food is made, distributed and consumed right here on our shores.

Andrew Ive is the founder and managing general partner of Big Idea Ventures, a venture capital firm that has partnered with Temasek Holdings to invest in companies specializing in alternative proteins

The top-line mission for Big Idea Ventures, a New York- and Singapore-based venture capital and accelerator firm founded in 2018, is “to solve the world’s greatest challenges by supporting the world’s best entrepreneurs”. Backed by investors such as Singapore’s Temasek Holdings and US food giant Tyson Foods, the firm’s first fund—the $50 million New Protein Fund in 2019—focused on cell-based meat, seafood and dairy products, as well as those facilitating the ingredients and technologies in the ecosystem startups. In 2021, the company will be opening new offices in France and India. Its New York-based founder and managing general partner Andrew D Ive believes that cell-based food tech, instead of plant-based, is the long-term solution. He shares why he’s investing in the world of alternative proteins.

Singapore is a key player in the commercialization and production of alternative proteins—one of the reasons is to counter the effects that cows and other animals have on the environment

Why do you think  Singapore is at the forefront of the innovative plant-based and cell-based meat industries? 

Andrew Ive (AI) There are a couple of components to that. The Singapore government is very supportive of food innovation and improving food security. They have a long-term plan, and they are prepared to invest and bring the right people together. It’s about building a hub and a strong ecosystem that functions well together. You also need the entire value chain, the ingredient providers, contract manufacturers, distributors, retailers and producers.

The government recognizes this ecosystem approach and encourages its development. We were the first accelerator firm in the alternative protein space that they invested in. We appreciate being right in the middle of this ecosystem. In addition, plant-based food has a tradition in Asia. So, it’s not too much a leap for consumers to grab on to the [plant-based] innovation.

Ultimately, a lot of global food companies have decided that Singapore is a great headquarters because of the infrastructure, the educated workforce, the rule of law, and the respect for intellectual property. It is also livable, multicultural, and has great food.

Why is there a real urgency to embrace alternative proteins today?

AI In Singapore, 95 per cent of the food consumed is imported. If there is a disruption or a pandemic, it won’t take very long before the borders are closed, and that’s a concern. But I think the answer in the long term is cell-based, rather than plant-based. Because for plant-based, you still need pea protein or wheat as the core ingredient. And if you can’t get the ingredient, plant-based isn’t going to work either.

How important  is the New Protein Fund  in the post-pandemic world?  

AI Our goal is to fund 100 amazing companies in the alternative protein space over a four to five year period, and to support and back them. But we don’t just give money. We have mentors and experts to help them avoid normal challenges that young companies face when they grow too quickly. We want to help them grow, survive, and ultimately become global brands. I want to walk into a grocery store in 10 years’ time and see that we’ve supported 20 to 30 per cent of the products on the shelves.

Ive believes that cell-based alternative proteins offer a long-term solution to food security issues faced by countries like Singapore

What do you predict will be the next big thing? 

AI Fermentation is a key area of exploration in the food innovation space. We have seen companies growing honey using fermentation—without bees. We’ve seen companies create plant-based fish and shrimp using micro-bio fermentation or mycelium (mushrooms).

Another more cutting-edge innovation is using regular plants as bioreactors. For example, there’s a company that puts dairy fat inside a crop, and when it grows, the milk inside multiplies.

Will we be seeing a lot more innovative menus in the near future?

AI I would actually prefer it if we had the traditional menus that people love but with ingredients that are more sustainable—and that are more cell- and plant-based versus animal- or seafood-based. We want the food to be great tasting, great for people and the planet. People are not going to change to these new ingredients unless the taste is as good if not better than what they’re used to.

SOURCE Tatler Singapore

This whole-plant start-up is taking on Asia’s billion-dollar meat industry

Appetite for alternative meat is growing across the globe.

As the nutritional and environmental impacts of meat consumption become better known, producers and consumers are looking to different sources to address the continued demand for protein.

One among them is Dan Riegler, whose own evolving relationship with meat inspired him to co-found Karana.

“I was very much a vegan skeptic, a meat-eater for a lot of my life, and I’ve taken a major turn,” Riegler told CNBC Make It.

A meat alternative for Asia

Karana is the Singapore food start-up positioning itself as Asia’s first whole-plant-based meat brand. Its flagship product — a pulled pork substitute — is made entirely from jackfruit, oil and salt, without processed ingredients or preservatives.

Started in 2018 as demand for meat alternatives was growing, Riegler said he saw a gap in the market for meat substitutes designed specifically for Asian cuisines.

“We saw a huge need to identify products that had more local applications for APAC,” said Riegler, now 35, who built a career working in agricultural supply chains across Southeast Asia.

“Pork is the number one meat that’s consumed in this region and that’s where we didn’t see a lot of products really addressing a need.”

Asia is responsible for producing and consuming half of the world's pork.
Asia is responsible for producing and consuming half of the world’s pork.

Indeed, half of the world’s pork is produced and consumed in Asia, with most of that demand coming from China.

So Riegler and his co-founder Blair Crichton, formerly of Impossible Foods which also produces plant-based meat alternatives, set to work finding an environmentally-friendly alternative.

Creating pork from jack all

It wasn’t long before the pair identified Karana’s first product: a pork substitute made of jackfruit sourced from smallholder farmers in Sri Lanka.

Jackfruit has a long history in South and Southeast Asian cuisines, especially in vegetarian and vegan dishes. Known for its densely packed, fibrous texture and meat-like qualities, the unripe young jackfruit is commonly used in savory foods, while the sweet ripe jackfruit is eaten raw.

Jackfruit is commonly used in many South and Southeast Asian dishes.
Jackfruit is commonly used in many South and Southeast Asian dishes.

“Jackfruit, as a crop, does not need irrigation, does not need pesticides, does not need herbicides. So it’s a very hardy tree, and when it yields fruit, it’s very, very prolific,” said Carsten Carstens, Karana’s chief scientific officer and first hire.

In fact, jackfruit is so abundant in the region that tons of it go to waste every year. That is due in part to the complexity of preparing and cooking it.

“The formats that it was available in … were just not exciting to us. They were very difficult to work with, they were not yielding interesting textures and end results, and we knew that jackfruit was not living up to its potential,” Riegler said.

So, the founders set to work adapting the fruit for a mass-market — soon devising a chemical-free, mechanical process at their manufacturing hub in Singapore to transform the fruit into a shredded, meat-like product that’s simple for chefs and consumers to use.

“Our intention was really to create something that chefs can take and create amazing dishes with,” said Carstens. “For the modern kitchen in a modern (food and beverage) operation, it is just too labor-intense.”

Tapping a growing market

Karana’s invention comes as an appetite for more ethical and sustainable food grows across Asia and beyond.

Even before the pandemic, the alternative meat market was estimated to hit $140 billion — or 10% of the global meat industry — within a decade.

The alternative meat industry is estimated to be worth $140 billion by 2029.
The alternative meat industry is estimated to be worth $140 billion by 2029.

Mirte Gosker, acting managing director at The Good Food Institute Asia Pacific, said that demand for meat substitutes is increasing in Asia as awareness of food safety and nutrition grows.

“Here in Asia, we see a real demand for healthy products with high nutritious value,” said Gosker. “And specifically in China, one of the reasons for people to buy plant-based meat, actually the biggest reason, is the wish to lose weight.”

Moreover, she said, the environmental effects of traditional animal agriculture are becoming unsustainable.

“Animal agriculture is the top two or three contributors to the most pressing environmental challenges on our planet right now. That includes air pollution, water pollution, water shortages, and loss of biodiversity,” said Gosker.

“If we would not use those fields to grow feed for animals, we could actually use those fields to reforest, to create larger biodiversity, or use, for example, for renewable energy,” she added.

Attracting investor appetite

The investment community is seeing the benefits of alternative proteins too. According to The Good Food Institute Asia Pacific, global investments into alternative proteins rose 300% in 2020 alone.

In July 2020, Karana raised $1.7 million in seed funding from investors including Big Idea Ventures, a fund dedicated to plant-based foods backed by Singapore’s state investment company Temasek, and U.S. meat company Tyson Foods.

Karana's flagship product is a pulled pork substitute made entirely from jackfruit, oil and salt.
Karana’s flagship product is a pulled pork substitute made entirely from jackfruit, oil and salt.

The investment fueled the company’s 2021 debut in Singapore, where its whole-plant pork is now available at nine restaurants and counting — in dishes from dumplings to “ngoh hiang,” a local pork roll.

Next up will be its rollout in Hong Kong, as well as the launch of a line of ready-to-cook retail products. Meantime, investment in a new innovation lab will enable Karana to experiment further with jackfruit and other whole-plant meat substitutes.

The more good products that are out there, the more consumers will increasingly switch to plant-based.
Dan Riegler

All that comes as the alternative meat space becomes increasingly crowded, with major players like Beyond Meat staking a claim to the sector.

It won’t be easy winning market share, but Riegler said he welcomes the competition.

“The more good products that are out there, the more consumers will increasingly switch to plant-based,” he said. “I think the more innovation the better.”


Gathered Foods launched its frozen line of plant-based seafood last year.

Gathered Foods’ plant-based seafood brand Good Catch has raised $26.35 million in a new funding round. [-] GATHERED FOODS

Plant-based seafood brand Good Catch’s parent, Gathered Foods, has raised $26.35 million in a new funding round that will go toward developing new products,  expanding the brand’s presence in existing global markets and entering new ones, CEO Christine Mei said.

The new funding round, led by Louis Dreyfus Company, brings the total raised by the company since its inception to more than $70 million, with earlier rounds going toward developing the brand’s six-product line. Good Catch, developed by partners Chris Kerr and sibling chefs Chad and Derek Sarno, launched its first plant-based tuna products a few years ago, and last year it debuted a frozen line of vegan crab cakes, fish cakes and fish burgers.

Mei, a CPG industry veteran with 30 years experience and a resume that includes stints at Coca-Cola and Procter & Gamble, took the CEO reins from Kerr last July, in the midst of the global pandemic.

“I was hired through Zoom — I didn’t meet Chris [in person] for three months,” Mei says with a laugh. “I have still not met the entire leadership team, but we’ve been in the same virtual rooms, we’ve been in each others’ homes, and it has engaged us to connect in very concentrated ways. Virtual situations do work, but you have to make them work.”

The new role attracted Mei, who saw it as the right next step after moving back to the U.S. after several years spent growing her career in Asia, most recently in Shanghai, she says.

Her interest in plant-based foods had been growing for several years and she enjoyed the startup culture while working with an Austin, Texas-based accelerator, after returning to the U.S. to be closer to family. That experience also brought home the realization that, while a leader, she’s not cut out to be a founder.

“My strength is to partner with a passionate founder to scale,” she says. “I met with Chris, who was one of the most visionary and committed founders I’ve met. When he described why he and Chad and Derek Sarno founded the company, it checked all the boxes for me.”

Like other high-profile plant-based brands, Good Catch is seeing its growth accelerate as more consumers opt to try alternatives to traditional animal products.

U.S. retail sales of plant-based foods grew 27% last year, compared to 15% for the entire U.S. food market, according to data released this week by the Plant Based Foods Association and the Good Food Institute. Sales of plant-based meat, a category that includes plant-based seafood alternatives, soared 45% in 2020 over the previous year and it’s second only to plant-based milks by total sales.

Plant-based seafood isn’t as ubiquitous yet as plant-based beef and chicken options, but the category is growing with new products and startups like New Wave Foods, which recently debuted its plant-based shrimp in foodservice channels.

Sustainable seafood has become a hot-button issue of late, fueled most recently by the launch of the Netflix documentary Seaspiracy, which highlights threats to the world’s oceans from overfishing and plastic pollution from the fishing industry as well as from consumer products.

“It’s a very thought-provoking film,” Mei says. “As a plant-based food company, we’ve created ourselves to provide delicious and sustainable products.”

Those products are likely to be increasingly appealing to consumers concerned about the topics raised in the film, she says.

“If we really believed there could be such a thing as sustainable animal-based seafood, we probably wouldn’t be here. I think that movie is going to be great for provoking conversation and dialogue. There’s an important dialogue to be had. Let consumers make their choice. We want to be part of the solution.”

Before last year, the brand had a plan to focus more on foodservice channels than retail, but that flipped when the pandemic largely shut off foodservice channels and drove consumers to stock up for home cooking.

It’s starting to shift back, Mei said, and the brand has signed some restaurant partners recently, including Veggie Grill that now offers the Good Catch Tuna Melt on the menu at all 37 restaurants. More recently, Bareburger and Good Catch teamed up to offer the Plant-Based Classic Fish Burger, and the product is also featured in a prepared tuna salad at Whole Foods Market.

Growing in foodservice channels with innovative products tailored to the needs of restaurants and others in the industry will be another focus for the new funding.

“We would like to see foodservice reignited in 2021,” Mei said.


Tyson-backed New Wave Foods announced today that it is launching its plant-based shrimp alternative in foodservice companies and restaurants throughout the U.S. The company signed a non-exclusive agreement with the largest foodservice redistributor in the U.S., Dot Foods, to make its product commercially available.

New Wave Shrimp is made from a combination of mung bean, seaweed, and other plant-based ingredients. The plant-based shrimp can be used just like regular shrimp – it can be grilled, baked, sautéed, fried, and seared. Besides being vegan, gluten-free, and non-GMO, the shrimp alternative is also suitable for those who have a shellfish allergy.

Shrimp is the most consumed seafood in the U.S., and the population of wild shrimp continues to decline due to environmental pollution and overfishing. Additionally, shrimp fishing produces a lot of bycatch, which can reduce the population of wild fish and turtles. Farmed shrimp is an alternative to wild-caught shrimp, however, it can contain high amounts of unwanted antibiotics, be farmed by slave labor, and emit a high amount of carbon dioxide.

Other companies besides New Wave Foods are focused on providing a sustainable and plant-based option to wild and farmed shrimp. The Plant Based Seafood Co. has three varieties of plant-based shrimp, coconut-crusted, breaded, and regular, made from a base of konjac powder. Sophie’s Kitchen produces a variety of plant-based seafood products and its shrimp alternative is made from rice flakes, potato-starch, and konjac.

New Wave Shrimp is the first product from the company, and we may start seeing the product on restaurant menus by mid-2021. In 2022, New Wave Foods plans on expanding its product line to include lobster, scallops, and crabs.

When Veronica Fil first sampled the cauliflower and hemp-based cheese her husband, chef Shaun Quade had created, she said: “Do you realise what you’ve done? This could be huge.” She was right. The innovative portfolio that unfolded from Grounded Foods originated in Shaun’s fine dining restaurant in Australia then landed, via New York, in LA, with pre-sales of its cheese selling out within three minutes last April.


Today, almost a year later, these long awaited chef-created cheeses are officially launching in the US, ready to disrupt the outdated, unsustainable animal cheese market.

In July, Grounded closed an oversubscribed seed funding round where it raised $1.74M. Already, it has attracted the attention of media, chefs, and investors across the globe.

” alt=”” aria-hidden=”true” />Melted ChedBlok ©Grounded

While there are already plenty of cheese alternatives available in the US, Grounded is different. Its unique proprietary combination of upcycled cauliflower and hemp overcomes challenges other brands have faced around cost and sustainability (artisan nut-based cheeses) and poor nutritional value (coconut oil-based brands).

In an interview with vegconomist last year, Shaun Quade said he deliberately took a different approach when developing the recipes, aiming to create something completely new and unique. The result is cheeses that are not only vegan and keto-friendly, but also free of casein, nuts, soy, gluten, and GMOs — and high in protein, omega 3 and 6, and calcium too.

From the beginning, Grounded has been focused on convincing flexitarians to switch away from dairy. It knew that if it was going to succeed, it would need to convincingly replicate the taste, texture, and addictiveness of conventional cheese. The key turned out to be fermentation, which has allowed the brand to “reimagine the sensory experience of eating cheese”.

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But when it comes to convincing the masses, cost is also a key factor. To stay accessible to as many people as possible, Grounded is aiming to keep prices low, with the average MSRP being $5.99 USD. The cheeses will also be available in packs of 3 or 6 from the Grounded website, priced at $30 and $50 respectively (with delivery included).

Despite its success, Grounded says international expansion isn’t on the cards right now. The startup is committed to 100% local and independent supply chains, and won’t be expanding until it can do so sustainably.

“We’re not vegan ourselves, but we recognize that there are enormous sustainability issues surrounding dairy production,” said CEO Veronica Fil. “Our goal is to help everyday people shift away from dairy, by creating something so insanely tasty you wouldn’t think twice about choosing it over cheddar.”

” alt=”” aria-hidden=”true” />grounded goat cheese pizza
© Shaun Quade

Grounded cheese can now be purchased for home delivery at

BERKELEY, California – March 30, 2021 – MeliBio, Inc., the startup making real honey without bees, has today announced the closing of $850,000 in the pre-seed round funding.

The company, founded in 2020 by Aaron Schaller, PhD and Darko Mandich is developing a proprietary technology based on synthetic biology, precision fermentation, and plant science that replaces honeybees as a medium for honey production.

The global honey market in 2020 was valued at $9 billion. Today, the industry solely relies on honeybees and faces many issues related to sustainability and its negative impact on bee biodiversity. By producing real honey with the help of science, MeliBio is revolutionizing the industry to help save 20,000 wild and native bee species that are essential to Earth’s flora and fauna.

After coming out of a leading global startup accelerator program, Big Idea Ventures in New York, MeliBio attracted nine investors and raised funds from: Big Idea Ventures, Joyance Partners,, Sparklabs Cultiv8, Sustainable Food Ventures, Capital V, angel investor Courtney Reum and two mission-driven family offices from GlassWall Syndicate.

Darko Mandich, CEO and Co-Founder of MeliBio said: “We are thrilled to have support from the investors who believe in the world our company wants to create. That world is the place where the most delicious and nutritious food is accessible to everyone, but not at the expense of the sustainability of our planet. I thank all of the people who work diligently to bring MeliBio’s honey made without bees into many homes and communities.”

Initially, MeliBio plans to supply food service companies with its plant-based honey as an ingredient. The first product will be soft launched at the end of this year to fulfill orders the company received during its participation in Big Idea Ventures’ accelerator program. MeliBio is in talks with potential partners from several countries and the company expects further commercial product rollout in the first half of 2022.

“Big Idea Ventures is focused on investing in companies with transformative technologies which have  the power to positively impact a global industry or category,” said Andrew D. Ive, founder and general managing partner of Big Idea Ventures. “MeliBio has the real potential to change not just the honey category but the whole sweetener and skincare industries with a new and sustainable way to create real honey without the bees. MeliBio has created the first truly vegan honey.”

Holly Jacobus, Investment Partner at Joyance Partners, stated: “We’re absolutely delighted to support the MeliBio team in improving our food ecosystem. Their novel technology could have an outsized impact on not only honey production in the US, but the entire ecological community.”

Nik Talreja, Partner at, said, “MeliBio’s honey is indistinguishable from traditional bee-made honey, and its properties enable food and cosmetic processors to cost-effectively and scalably introduce a variety of complex sugars into consumer products, with potentially broader appeal. Demand for honey is increasing, and, as we understand it, there is no ecologically sustainable way to meet this growing demand. We are psyched to be a part of MeliBio’s journey and are privileged to work with MeliBio’s incredible team in solving a delicious problem.”

Malcolm Nutt, Partner at Sparklabs Cultiv8, stated: “Sparklabs Cultiv8 is thrilled to be working with MeliBio, to help produce real honey without the bees. We look forward to assisting them expand in the Asia Pacific region, whilst making a positive impact on biodiversity.”

“MeliBio is how we unf*ck the world, MeliBio’s mission is to stop the devastating loss of bee biodiversity with a better, more sustainable, plant based honey. There’s no us without the bees and we’re 100 percent behind MeliBio on their mission to save the bees and us,” said Ryan Bethencourt, Partner, Sustainable Food Ventures.

Courtney Reum, Co-Founder of M13 who invested personally in MeliBio as an angel investor, stated: “Finding ways to produce animal foods without animal farming is important for the sustainability of the global food system. As a long-time connoisseur of honey and all its benefits, I am excited about MeliBio’s endeavor to make honey plant-based while saving bee biodiversity.”

Michiel van Deursen, Founder of Capital V, said, “Honey possesses unique properties that make it highly attractive in fields such as medicine, cosmetics, and the food industry. However, what many don’t know, is that the honey industry seriously harms the environment, and has a huge negative impact on bees. I was immediately interested and impressed when Darko and Aaron presented MeliBio to me. I see tremendous opportunities and expect MeliBio to have a great impact in this space. I am proud to add this amazing company and their incredible team to the portfolio of Capital V to help them create a future that is better for our planet and the bees.”

By 2048, we may face fishless oceans, if commercial fishing practices continue. While the stories of the destructive practices of commercial fishing have been shared over the years, the 2021 release of Seaspiracy on Netflix is sure to be a turning point in changing the future of seafood.


Women around the world are creating mission-driven companies at record rates. These ten women have been working tirelessly to create a new future for our oceans through alt seafood. Using a combination of plant-based, cell-based, mycellium, fermentation, and other leading technologies, these women are leading the way around the world for a kinder, more sustainable future.

Read more below on how these ten women are changing the future of the ocean.


Christine Mei is the CEO of Gathered Foods, makers of Good Catch®, a chef-driven revolutionary food company developing plant-based seafood alternatives. Christine is a global leader with over 30 years of CPG industry experience across the USA, China, and Hong Kong. Prior to Gathered Foods, Christine held leadership positions at companies including The Coca-Cola Company, Nike, and Procter & Gamble.

Gathered Foods

Gathered Foods produces Good Catch, a 100% plant-based seafood alternative line. The company recently raised $32 million USD in a Series B round in early 2020.

Company type: Plant-based


Dr. Sandhya Sriram is the CEO and co-founder of Shiok Meats. Sandhya is a stem cell scientist with over 10 years of experience. Sandhya graduated with a PhD from Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. Following graduation, Sandhya did her postdoc at A*STAR in Singapore.

Dr. Ka Yi Ling is the co-founder of Shiok Meats. She is a developmental and stem cell biologist with a decade of experience in tracing and studying stem cell development. Ka Yi was awarded the prestigious A*STAR’s National Science Scholarship and graduated with a Bachelor’s and PhD from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Following graduation, Ka Yi did her postdoc at A*STAR in Singapore.

Shiok Meats

Shiok Meats is the world’s first cell-based crustacean meat company. The company recently raised $12.6 million USD in a Series A round in September 2020 and plans to open a pilot plant to produce cell-based minced shrimp to be on shelves by 2022.

Company type: Cell-based


Aki Kaltenbach is the founder and CEO of Save Da Sea Foods and her experience in the food industry runs deep. She ran her family’s Japanese restaurant chain for many years, launched multiple vegan products after becoming vegan in 2017, led a team of 50 people, and grew the business to $3 million CAD in revenue. Prior to founding her company she was an early employee at Hootsuite, a social media management software company in Vancouver, and scaled the company grow from 100 to 1000 employees.

Save Da Sea Foods

Save Da Sea Foods is a global plant-based seafood brand that includes a complete line of plant-based seafood products made from simple ingredients. Their first product is a salmon lox product made from vegetables.

Company type: Plant-based


Monica Talbert is the CEO of The Plant Based Seafood Co. Prior to founding her company, Monica led business and operations for her family business, The Van Cleve Seafood Co. After discovering the unsustainability of commercial fishing on a business trip to Indonesia, Monica and her mother launched a plant-based crab cake product to rave reception, leading to the founding of The Plant Based Seafood Co. Monica holds a degree in Chinese and International Trade from Clemson University.

The Plant Based Seafood Co

The Plant Based Seafood Co was founded in May 2020 as a producer of plant-based seafood products. The company’s first product launched in August 2020. In September 2020, the company won a Spirit of Innovation “Most Innovative” new product and a PETA Libby award for best “vegan based meat”.

Company type: Plant-based


Sònia Hurtado is the co-founder of Kuleana. Sònia is a career food scientist and has worked in the industry for more than 15 years. Prior to founding Kuleana, Sònia worked in research and development at various European food companies. She completed her Masters in Food Biotechnology at the Universitat de Girona.


Kuleana is a plant-based seafood company focused on developing tuna and salmon alternatives. The company debuted tuna using iron, algae oil, and a mix of different proteins at a taste testing in 2020. The company raised €50,000 in an initial Seed round in mid 2020 and was a part of the Summer 2020 Y Combinator cohort.

Company type: Plant-based


Isabella Iglesias-Musachio is the founder of Kinoko Labs. Isabella is a passionate citizen scientist with an academic background in sustainability and agriculture, and a proven track record in helping tech startups scale internationally. Prior to founding Kinoko Labs, Isabella worked in development agencies and NGOs focused on humanitarian aid and agricultural exchanges, in addition to working in tech and ag-tech startups.

Kinoko Labs

Kinoko Labs is developing a range of whole-muscle meat and fish steaks, fillets, and cutlets. The product is made of mycelium protein and aims to produce ready-to-cook, seasoned, marinated, and breaded cuts across various cuisines.

Company Type: Mycellium/Plant-based


Michelle Wolf is the co-founder of New Wave Foods. Michelle cofounded New Wave Foods with fellow women founder, Dominique Barnes, in 2015 to create a healthy and sustainable alternative to seafood. Michelle received an engineering degree from Carnegie Mellon University and was recently featured in the 2020 edition of Forbes 30 Under 30.

New Waves Foods

New Wave Foods produces a plant-based shrimp alternative made from seaweed and aims to launch in restaurants and food service locations in 2021. The company recently raised $18 million USD in a Series A round in January 2021.

Company type: Plant-based


Kimberlie Le is the CEO of Prime Roots. Kimberlie is a scientist-turned-entrepreneur, who has worked in the food industry for ten years. While working as a researcher in molecular toxicology, microbiology, and legal studies at UC Berkeley, she came up with her vision for Prime Roots and the use of koji in alternative protein. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Molecular Toxicology from UC Berkeley.

Prime Roots

Prime Roots is the only company currently producing koji-based plant-based meat and seafood alternatives. The company is an early leader in fermentation technology in the industry. The company recently raised a $16 million USD Series A round in July 2020.

Company type: Fermentation/Plant-based


Kai Yi (Carrie) Chan is the CEO of Avant Meats. Carrie is a seasoned business leader and a passionate environmentalist dedicated to making an impact on the planet through diet. Prior to founding Avant Meats, Carrie was a project management leader with contracts of up to $100 million USD and a leader in the real estate industry. She has a Masters in Business Administration from INSEAD.

Avant Meats

Avant Meats uses fish cells to make cultivated seafood products, including fish maw and sea cucumber. The company held its first taste test of its fish maw product in November 2019 and debuted a cell-based functional protein product for the cosmeceutical ingredient market in February 2021. The company raised a $3.1 million USD Seed round in December 2020.

Company type: Cell-based


Courtney Boyd Myers is the CEO of AKUA. Courtney began her career in kelp as an adviser to GreenWave, a nonprofit that supports the regenerative ocean farming industry. She is an advisor to Revent, an early-stage European tech fund backing founders tackling today’s biggest challenges in climate, healthcare, education, and economic empowerment, as well as a Global Community Ambassador to Summit. She holds a Bachelor of English from James Madison University.


AKUA is a seawood-based alternative protein company. The company produces kelp-based burgers and jerky products. At the time of writing, the company is currently raising their first round of funding through Republic with over $500,000 USD currently raised.

Company type: Plant-based

By 2035, every tenth portion of meat, eggs, and dairy eaten around the globe is very likely to be alternative,” says a new report from Boston Consulting Group and Blue Horizon Corporation predicting alternative proteins could account for 11% ($290bn) of the market by 2035 vs 2% in 2020. And this is a pretty conservative scenario, they argue: “It could be much more, if all four of the dominoes now lined up were to tip over…”

Read the full article at the link above.

Startup accelerator Y Combinator has made its first investment in a cultured meat company with the addition of Orbillion Bio to the Winter 2021 cohort. Prior to joining YC, Orbillion participated in both the Brinc accelerator and Big Idea Ventures NYC program.

Orbillion’s focus is on cultivating higher-end meat products such as elk, lamb, and Wagyu beef. To develop these products, the company runs multiple cell lines through bioreactors, screening the cells and isolating those best suited to commercial food scale production. Machine-learning software helps pick out the best tissue and media combinations with which to make meat analogues.

The company told TechCrunch this week that its first product will be a Wagyu beef product that will be more of a minced product than a whole cut of steak. Orbillion plans to get that product into the market in 2023, though in what capacity (e.g., a restaurant) the company did not say, nor did it elaborate on which market.

The goal is to eventually provide the kinds of craft meats one would purchase not from the grocery store but from a high-end butcher shop.

The focus on high-end meats may allow Orbillion’s products to reach price parity with their traditional counterparts sooner than other cultured meat companies. The company also says it wants to bring the cost of its products down even further, so that they actually become more affordable than traditional high-end meats. That idea is in keeping with recent comments entrepreneur/investor Jim Mellon shared with The Spoon, that meat made via cellular agriculture will eventually become more affordable than traditionally farmed meat.

Nor is Orbillion the only company veering away from the usual chicken, pork, and beef staples and developing premium cultured meats. Vow, in Australia, develops cultured meat products from a library of cells that includes kangaroo, alpaca, and lamb, among others. The company raised $6 million at the beginning of 2021.

For its part, Orbillion aims to get a pilot plant up and running by the end of 2022, which the company says will take roughly $3.5 million.

Last week a select group of 20 employees and guests gathered at an event space on the San Francisco Bay, and, while looking out at the Bay Bridge, dined on a selection of choice elk sausages, Wagyu meatloaf and lamb burgers — all of which were grown from a petri dish.

The dinner was a coming out party for Orbillion Bio, a new startup pitching today in Y Combinator’s latest demo day, that’s looking to take lab-grown meats from the supermarket to high-end, bespoke butcher shops.

Instead of focusing on pork, chicken and beef, Orbillion is going after so-called heritage meats — the aforementioned elk, lamb and Wagyu beef to start.

By focusing on more expensive-end products, Orbillion doesn’t have as much pressure to slash costs as dramatically as other companies in the cellular meat market, the thinking goes.

But there’s more to the technology than its bougie beef, elite elk and luscious lamb meat.

“Orbillion uses a unique accelerated development process producing thousands of tiny tissue samples, constantly iterating to find the best tissue and media combinations,” according to Holly Jacobus, whose firm, Joyance Partners, is an early investor in Orbillion. “This is much less expensive and more efficient than traditional methods and will enable them to respond quickly to the impressive demand they’re already experiencing.”

The company runs its multiple cell lines through a system of small bioreactors. Orbillion couples that with a high throughput screening and machine learning software system to build out a database of optimized tissue and media combinations. “The key to making lab grown meat work scalably is choosing the right cells cultured in the most efficient way possible,” Jacobus wrote.

Orbillion is co-founded by a deeply technical and highly experienced team of executives that’s led by Patricia Bubner, a former researcher at the German pharmaceutical giant Boehringer Ingelheim. Joining Bubner is Gabriel Levesque-Tremblay, a former director of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, who was a post-doc at Berkeley with Bubner and serves as the company’s chief technology officer. Rounding out the senior leadership is Samet Yildirim, the chief operating officer and a veteran executive of Boehringer Ingelheim (he actually served as Bubner’s boss).

Orbillion Bio co-founders Gabriel Levesque-Tremblay, CTO; Patricia Bubner, CEO; and Samet Yildirim, COO. Image Credit: Orbillion Bio

For Bubner, the focus on heritage meats is as much a function of her background growing up in rural Austria as it is about economics. A longtime, self-described foodie and a nerd, Bubner went into chemistry because she ultimately wanted to apply science to the food business. And she wants Orbillion to make not just meat, but the most delicious meats.

It’s an aim that fits with how many other companies have approached the market when they’re looking to commercialize a novel technology. Higher-end products, or products with unique flavor profiles that are unique to the production technologies available, are more likely to be commercially viable sooner than those competing with commodity products. Why focus on angus beef when you can focus on a much more delicious breed of animal?

For Bubner, it’s not just about making a pork replacement, it’s about making the tastiest pork replacement.

“I’m just fascinated and can see the future in us being able to further change the way we produce food to be more efficient,” she said. “We’re at this inflection point. I’m a nerd, I’m a foodie, and I really wanted to use my skills to make a change. I wanted to be part of that group of people that can really have an impact on the way we eat. For me there’s no doubt that a large percentage of our food will be from alternative proteins — plant based, fermentation and lab-grown meat.”

Joining Boehringer Ingelheim was a way for Bubner to become grounded in the world of big bioprocessing. It was preparation for her foray into lab-grown meat, she said.

“We are a product company. Our goal is to make the most flavorful steaks. Our first product will not be whole cuts of steak. The first product is going to be a Wagyu beef product that we plan on putting out in 2023,” Bubner said. “It’s a product that’s going to be based on more of a minced product. Think Wagyu sashimi.”

To get to market, Bubner sees the need not just for a new approach to cultivating choice meats, but a new way of growing other inputs as well, from the tissue scaffolding needed to make larger cuts that resemble traditional cuts of meat, or the fats that will need to be combined with the meat cells to give flavor.

That means there are still opportunities for companies like Future Fields, Matrix Meats and Turtle Tree Scientific to provide inputs that are integrated into the final, branded product.

Bubner’s also thinking about the supply chain beyond her immediate potential partners in the manufacturing process. “Part of my family were farmers and construction workers and the others were civil engineers and architects. I hold farmers in high respect… and think the people who grow the food and breed the animals don’t get recognition for the work that they do.”

She envisions working in concert with farmers and breeders in a kind of licensing arrangement, potentially, where the owners of the animals that produce the cell lines can share in the rewards of their popularization and wider commercial production.

That also helps in the mission of curbing the emissions associated with big agribusiness and breeding and raising livestock on a massive scale. If you only need a few animals to make the meat, you don’t have the same environmental footprint for the farms.

“We need to make sure that we don’t make the mistakes that we did in the past that we only breed animals for yield and not for flavor,” said Bubner.

Even though the company is still in its earliest days, it already has one letter of intent, with one of San Francisco’s most famous butchers. Guy Crims, also known as “Guy the Butcher,” has signed a letter of intent to stock Orbillion Bio’s lab-grown Wagyu in his butcher shop, Bubner said. “He’s very much a proponent of lab-grown meat.”

Now that the company has its initial technology proven, Orbillion is looking to scale rapidly. It will take roughly $3.5 million for the company to get a pilot plant up and running by the end of 2022, and that’s in addition to the small $1.4 million seed round the company has raised from Joyant and firms like VentureSouq.

“The way I see an integrated model working later on is to have the farmers be the breeders of animals for cultivated meat. That can reduce the number of cows on the planet to a couple of hundred thousand,” Bubner said of her ultimate goal. “There’s a lot of talking about if you do lab-grown meat you want to put me out of business. It’s not like we’re going to abolish animal agriculture tomorrow.”

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