Agtech company NuCicer, which is creating ultra-high protein chickpeas using wild chickpea varieties, announces the close of an additional seed funding round led by Leaps by Bayer, the impact investing arm of Bayer AG.
“Expanding affordable, scalable plant protein beyond currently available soy ingredients is a critical and urgent need for our food system”
The investment will allow NuCicer to scale production of its high-protein chickpeas, which contain 75% more protein than conventional chickpeas. The company also aims to reduce chickpea protein ingredient costs by 50% as it works to bring consumers more affordable plant proteins in 2023.
40X more diversity
Co-founded by UC Davis Professor and CTO Douglas Cook, a world-renowned expert on chickpea genetics, NuCicero harnesses the extensive natural biodiversity of wild chickpeas using a machine learning and genomic breeding platform.
Wild chickpeas contain 40X more genetic diversity than commercial varieties, and NuCicer employs its vast germplasm library to integrate desirable wild chickpea traits with elite cultivars through non-GM cross-breeding.
While chickpeas already possess natural climate-resilient traits such as high water efficiency and nitrogen fixation capabilities, NuCicer seeks to enhance other climate-friendly traits like tolerance to heat, drought, acidic soils and disease.
“Expanding affordable, scalable plant protein beyond currently available soy ingredients is a critical and urgent need for our food system,” said Kathryn Cook, CEO and Co-Founder, NuCicer. “Today’s investment round is a significant moment for both NuCicer and the wider plant protein market. With Leaps by Bayer’s support, we look forward to taking the next step in our journey: driving natural ingredient technologies to the next level and bringing improved plant-based products to market.”
With the latest investment, NuCicer also plans to expand its existing work with downstream partners and customers. The company is targeting a 50% cost reduction for its chickpea protein ingredients, and plans to introduce affordable plant protein products to end-consumers in 2023.
Along with Bayer, the seed investment round included participation from Lever VC, Blue Horizon, and Trellis Road, and follows a 2021 seed round led by Lever VC.
“Leaps by Bayer was founded on the principle of driving real change to the world we live in via our investments, and NuCicer is an ideal example of how we’re working collaboratively to make a positive difference,” commented Dr. Jürgen Eckhardt, Head of Leaps by Bayer. “NuCicer is a fascinating business that we believe will assist the development of climate resilient, natural, and plant-based protein alternatives that will help decarbonize our food supply chains.”