This Startup Uses Machine Learning to Bioferment Vegan Ingredients. It Just Raised $17M To Launch By 2022. – Green Queen Media


Shiru, the startup using machine learning and biofermentation to create its suite of plant-based ingredients, has closed its Series A with $17 million. It will use the funds to further scale its technology ahead of delivering its first vegan ingredients in 2022 to global food and CPG companies that are looking to make everything from plant-based cookies to dairy-free yogurt. 
Shiru, the company that has created a “discovery platform” of plant-based ingredients, has secured $17 million in a Series A round. The round was led by S2G Ventures, which lists Beyond Meat, Apeel and Ripple Foods in its portfolio, and joined by The W Fund, Lux Capital, CPT Capital and Y Combinator, among others. It brings the company’s total financing to date to over $20 million. 
Based in California, Shiru’s patent-pending technology relies on machine learning and precision biofermentation. It discovers novel ingredients that other companies can use to replace animal-based ingredients and develop new plant-based products that taste, function and look like its conventional counterparts. 
“Shiru develops ingredients expected to meet or exceed their animal analogs on taste, texture, versatility, and cost at scale,” says the B2B firm. Its platform also ensures that these products are as sustainable as possible—using just a “small fraction” of land, energy and water compared to animal ingredients, from gelatin to milk powder. 
According to the startup, what makes its novel ingredients stand out from existing functional proteins such as legume-based ingredients, is functionality. Its technology reverse-engineers conventional ingredients down to the molecular level it says, which ensures that these 100% animal-free ingredients still deliver on things like texture, foaming, emulsification and gelation. 
Fuelled with fresh funding, Shiru says it’ll be able to deliver its first shipments of novel plant-based ingredients to global food and CPG firms by 2022. 
Dr. Jasmine Hume, CEO and founder of Shiru, says large food corporations are now looking for plant-based ingredient solutions more than ever before and that its platform offers a fast and convenient way for brands to launch vegan products without needing to invest in new technologies in-house. 
One recent report published by the FAIRR Initiative finds that almost 30% of the world’s largest food retailers and producers are now pivoting to alternative proteins to keep up with changing consumer preferences. 
“The global food industry is well aware of the voracious demand among consumers for sustainable food, as well as the sector’s immense power to help solve our climate crisis. Shiru’s goal is to make it simple and cost-effective for every food company, from multinational conglomerates to innovative startups, to do the right thing for people and the planet,” said Hume. 
Hume added that Shiru will use the funding to double its team, which currently consists of 22 members, as well as move into its new R&D facilities and headquarters in Alameda, California within the first half of next year. 
With mainstream consumers on board with alternative proteins—as many as 42% of all global shoppers now identify as flexitarians who actively minimise their meat and dairy intake—investors believe that animal-free ingredient makers are poised for major growth. 
It’s the reason why S2G Ventures has poured money into Shiru and led this Series A, with its managing director Chuck Templeton describing the vegan ingredient space as “on the cusp of an innovation explosion”. 
“Shiru is at the vanguard of a new generation of startups that will transform the agriculture sector,” Templeton added. 
Lead image courtesy of Shiru.
Sally Ho is Green Queen’s resident writer and lead reporter. Passionate about the environment, social issues and health, she is always looking into the latest climate stories in Hong Kong and beyond. A long-time vegan, she also hopes to promote healthy and plant-based lifestyle choices in Asia. Sally has a background in Politics and International Relations from her studies at the London School of Economics and Political Science.
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