Protealis Closes on EUR22M for Superior Plant Protein Seeds
In recent years, concerns associated with animal protein production and consumption have increasingly come to the fore, including antibiotic resistance, sustainability, animal welfare, food-borne illnesses, and perhaps most pressingly, the environmental impact of such production systems. These factors, combined with greater health and wellness awareness and engagement on the part of consumers has been consistently driving up demand for plant-based proteins.
A report released in March 2022 by the Plant Based Food Association revealed that in 2021, U.S. retail sales of plant-based foods topped $7.4 billion, surpassing total retail food sales. That year-on-year growth of 6.1 percent happened despite all the various supply chain and industry disruptions of the pandemic, and it doesn’t appear that it’s slowing down. The global plant-based protein market is expected to grow at a sustained CAGR of 5.7 percent between 2021-2031, at which time it is expected to surpass a value of $22.7 billion.
Addressing this growing demand is Belgian biotech company Protealis - a company spun out of VIB and ILVO in April 2021 that is developing seed technologies and superior plant-protein seeds optimized for European soils and climates, and has just closed on an oversubscribed EUR22 million (US$23.85 million) Series B.
Backing this round was an extensive cadre of existing investors comprising V-Bio Ventures, PMV, VIB, ILVO, Agri Investment Fund, Innovation Industries, Korys Investments, HFT Holding, Thia Ventures, Gemma Frisius Fund, Globachem Group, and Estari Group.
As a commercial-stage company, Protealis is working to develop legume seed solutions with enhanced crop yields and protein levels to give European farmers access to sustainable and resilient alternatives with minimal ecological footprints compared to traditional plant-protein crops. By focusing on locally adapted legume crops that don’t require any additional mineral nitrogen fertilizers, the company aims to strengthen regional food systems and offer novel opportunities to farmers while contributing to global sustainability goals.
Over the past year Protealis has seen multiple successes including the launch of two proprietary soybean seed varieties for older European climates. It also has established a new speed breeding facility able to shorten the breeding cycle by several years, and implemented a genomic mating platform to predict plant traits and enhance disease resistance when introducing new plant protein varieties.
Additionally, positive yield trial results with yellow peas - a major plant-based protein source for food processors and the company's upcoming legume crop - demonstrated Protealis’ commitment to advancing sustainable agriculture.
"These positive results have resonated with investors within and outside of Protealis, positioning our company as a leader in the rapidly evolving landscape of plant-based protein solutions,” said Benjamin Laga, CEO, Protealis.
“With this funding, we are well-positioned to accelerate our commercial efforts and expand our footprint in the European market, ultimately contributing to a more sustainable and resilient agricultural future."
The proceeds will be earmarked for fueling Protealis’ ongoing commercial growth and expansion in key European markets, and the expansion of its crop product portfolio and supporting technical platforms. These targeted improvements include the prediction of crop yield and quality using a combination of genetic fingerprinting and AI to further accelerate the introduction of new and better protein crop varieties to the market.
"Successfully securing EUR 22 million (US$23.85 million) from our investors in today’s challenging investment market shows that the rationale for Protealis and its mission for sustainable and high performance legume crops as an essential part of our future agriculture, is even bigger today than at our foundation,” said David Buckridge, chairman of the board, Protealis. “Looking at the rapid evolution of trends such as regenerative agriculture, there is no doubt that these systems will require significantly larger areas of legumes to be grown in Europe. This demands we breed for much higher field performance than is available for farmers today. Protealis is leading the industry in this area.”