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California-based startup Wild Earth recently secured a $ 23 million investment led by an all-star team that included Shark Tank’s Mark Cuban, vegan actor Paul Welsey, and a handful of investment firms. Wild Earth is committed to creating better pet food that does not contain slaughtered animals, is healthier for pets and has a smaller environmental footprint.
The biotech startup currently offers nutritionally complete vegan dog food and nutritional supplements developed by veterinarians to support the joint, intestinal and skin health of dogs. In 2019, Wild Earth introduced a one-of-a-kind dog treat made from cultured koji – a type of mushroom grown in a laboratory setting using a proprietary process that contains more protein than steak. Wild Earth is also developing cell-based pet foods and plans to launch it in 2022, subject to regulatory approval.
The new round of investment comes after Wild Earth’s appearance on Shark Tank in 2019, where its CEO Ryan Bethencourt secured $ 550,000 from Cuban for 10 percent of the company. “Wild Earth is a leader in plant-based pet foods,” said Cuban. “I’m excited to see what you have achieved and look forward to making you the market leader in cell-based meat-based animal feed.”
Mark Cuban’s vegan offerings
Vegetarian since 2019, in addition to his involvement with Wild Earth, during his decades with Shark Tank, Cuban has invested in a number of vegan companies, including $ 600,000 in dessert hummus company Delighted by Hummus; $ 300,000 in Pan’s Mushroom Jerky snack brand; $ 300,000 in Black’s possession of vegan meat brand Everything Legendary; $ 250,000 in Snacklins pork skin brand; $ 250,000 in Unreal Deli from vegan meat brand Mrs. Goldfarb; and $ 100,000 in date-based spreads from Wanna Date ?.
In March, Cuban, who owns NBA team Dallas Mavericks, made his largest vegan investment to date when he agreed to a $ 2 million deal with Numilk, a dairy machine that makes fresh non-dairy milk from oats, almonds, and other plant-based bases while avoiding waste from disposable bottles.
In addition to providing financial support, Cuban will act as a mentor for Wild Earth as it embraces the growing $ 30 billion pet industry.
Cell-based food for dogs and cats
If dogs and cats were their own country, they would be the fifth largest meat consumer in the world. Not only are other animals slaughtered to be consumed by dogs and cats, but pet food is often prepared with substandard meat, which is a health hazard due to bacterial contamination, the presence of antibiotics, and the potential for the spread of zoonotic diseases.
Wild Earth approaches this problem from a multi-faceted perspective that includes plant and fungus-based pet foods and products made from cell-based meat, which is made from a small amount of animal cells grown in bioreactors over the need to slaughter animals for meat. With the new funding, Wild Earth will use its proprietary technology to develop beef, chicken and seafood from cell-based meat with the aim of bringing new dog and cat foods to market in 2022.
Replacing meat in pet food with cell and plant-based alternatives will result in huge environmental savings and significantly reduce the 64 million tonnes of CO2 pollution caused by the pet food industry each year. With the pet food industry acting as a waste bin for animal factories, eliminating the need for traditionally produced meat would likely overthrow the animal husbandry industry by leaving it to the costly job of otherwise disposing of unmarketable meat.
“Meat production is the most climate-intensive part of our food system and causes almost as many emissions as the global energy sector. Wild Earth is changing the game by addressing the 20 percent or more meat consumption that goes to pets, ”said Tom Chi, founder of At One Ventures, another Wild Earth investor. “Your team has a unique combination of consumer instinct and deep scientific skills that enable them to create exceptionally healthy plant-based pet foods that pets love. We are happy to have spearheaded their last round and look forward to making a difference for the planet and your pets. ”
Remove animals for slaughter from dog and cat food
Fortunately, Wild Earth isn’t the only one addressing this issue. Another start-up, Weil, Animals, presented its first cell-based product at this year’s SuperZoo show in Las Vegas: a mouse meat biscuit treat for cats. The startup has been working on perfecting the cell-based product since 2016 and has been able to eliminate fetal bovine serum (harvested from pregnant cows) as a nutrient medium for its mouse meat in order to create a suitable source of protein for cats, which are obligatory carnivores without harming other animals.
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