Investments & Acquisitions

Leaft Foods Raises $15M for Leaf-Derived Protein With Similar Profile to Beef

New Zealand-based Leaft Foods has secured $15 million in funding for its leaf-derived protein. Participants in the round included Khosla Ventures, NBA star Steven Adams, and New Zealand indigenous investor Ngāi Tahu.

Leaft plans to use the Series A funding to increase R&D efforts, expand, and create a global value chain beginning with the United States. The company hopes its technology could pave the way for a new type of regenerative agriculture.

Protein from leaves

Leaves are the most abundant part of a plant, but until now it has proven difficult to obtain a significant amount of protein from them. Leaft’s technology changes that by extracting the protein RuBisCo, used for photosynthesis. According to the company, RuBisCo (ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase-oxygenase) is the most plentiful protein on the planet.

leaf-derived protein
Photo credit: Jerome Warburton

Plant-based in New Zealand

Interest in plant-based proteins is rapidly growing in Leaft’s home country of New Zealand, with the number of people eating a meat-free diet rising by 15% in 2020 compared to the previous year. The same year, a report found that the country radically needs to change the way it produces food to improve sustainability. Alternative proteins such as those produced by Leaft will be important in achieving this goal.

Better than beef?

Leaft’s protein is highly digestible, allergen-free, and contains the same nutrients as animal meat. According to the company, it has a similar amino acid profile to beef while being far more sustainable — the technology could provide the potential to feed the entire population using just 2% of the world’s agricultural land.

“Nature’s biggest animals — elephants, buffalo, and cattle — are all herbivores who have evolved to digest protein in leaves, especially with the latter two having multiple stomachs. But while it’s trapped inside a plant cell, it’s hard for humans to eat enough leaves for a sufficient serving of protein, let alone digest all of that plant matter,” said co-founder Dr. John Penno. “Our technology forges a new way to tap plant protein that is tasty, nutritious, scalable, and accessible for everyone. It’s truly transformational.”

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