The San Francisco–based accelerator IndieBio's Demo Day is delightfully awkward. Finally, with the room settled and the house lights turned down, the CEO of each of the 12 science-focused startups in the program steps to the stage, stumbles through a breathtakingly dense five-minute pitch of mind-bending products like 3-D-printed kidneys, lab-grown fish, and pheromone-based insecticide, and then asks for funding. The halting presentations are symptomatic of the program at IndieBio, which strives to turn scientists with big ideas into successful CEOs within four months. So this September, at IndieBio's Demo Day (the three-year-old accelerator's fifth fundraising event), it was staggering when Matías Muchnick, in a Tasmanian Devil–adorned Hawaiian shirt, gave a clear, concise, funny presentation about the way his company, NotCo, would change the food industry.
The plant-based food industry is booming, but there is still some disconnect in how plant-based options look and taste compared to their animal-made counterparts. Experts in the food industry believe artificial intelligence (AI) is that missing ingredient. Food-tech company NotCo recently released its plant-based milk, called NotMilk, that looks and tastes like dairy milk, to Whole Foods stores nationwide. The company has mastered the art of creating plant-based foods that taste, feel, and look just like their animal-based counterparts using AI. "To me, you have more than 400,000 species of plants in this world that you can explore, and we have no idea what they can do," NotCo founder and CEO Matias Muchnick told Lifewire in a phone interview.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is transforming the food industry by opening the doors to innovation and new product development (NPD), aligning to global food trends. This is not only limited to developed economies but is also taking off in emerging economies. A new Brazilian start-up company, Fazenda Futuro has developed a vegan burger using AI technology. The burger has the taste, smell and texture uncannily like the regular meat version, and is prepared from ingredients that include pea, soy, and chickpea protein. The'Futuro' burger also has the same nutritional value as a regular beef burger.
Chile's NotCo claims that Giuseppe, its patented AI technology platform, has perfectly mimicked the taste of real chicken in a vegan format. The pea protein-based development will be used to create a range of products. Initial chicken launches will take place in Chile, Argentina, and Brazil. Timely expansion into the U.S. and Canada is expected to follow. No confirmation of existing restaurant partner uptake has been offered.
NotCo, a food technology company making plant-based milk and meat replacements, wrapped up another funding round this year, a $235 million Series D round that gives it a $1.5 billion valuation. Tiger Global led the round and was joined by new investors, including DFJ Growth Fund, the social impact foundation, ZOMA Lab; athletes Lewis Hamilton and Roger Federer; and musician and DJ Questlove. Follow-on investors included Bezos Expeditions, Enlightened Hospitality Investments, Future Positive, L Catterton, Kaszek Ventures, SOSV and Endeavour Catalyst. This funding round follows an undisclosed investment in June from Shake Shack founder Danny Meyer through his firm EHI. In total, NotCo, with roots in both Chile and New York, has raised more than $350 million, founder and CEO Matias Muchnick told TechCrunch.