Female-founded fermentation startup Cauldron lands $10.5 million to transform how new foods and fibres are developed

- March 27, 2023 2 MIN READ
Michele Stansfield
Cauldron founder Michele Stansfield
  • Cauldron speeds up development of new food, feedstock and fibre ingredients

  • Its hyper-fermentation platform lowers commercial risk & production costs

  • $10.5m Seed round led by Main Sequence + Horizons Ventures

An ambitious plan to transform the way new food, feedstock and fibre ingredients are created, by using fermentation has raised $10.5 million in seed funding a new record for a female-founded startup.

Cauldron, based in regional NSW, will use the funds to expand its existing pilot plant in Orange, 260km west of Sydney, as well as building a national production network and team.

The round was led by CSIRO’s VC arm, Main Sequence Ventures, with support from Chinese Airwallex investor Horizons Ventures. University of NSW is also among Cauldron’s backers.

While the notion of fermentation is nothing new – think beer, wine, yogurt, cheese, kefir, kombucha – Stansfield as at the cutting edge of “precision fermentation” – industrial-scale fermentation she’s dubbed “fermafacturing”, ramping up the process in a way that’s cheaper, faster and scalable.

“Humanity has spent thousands of years getting fermentation to work. With Cauldron’s revolutionary fermaculture platform, we are supercharging that process and unlocking the next evolution of how we produce food, feed and fibre globally,” Stansfield said.

“Our technology, 35 years of expertise, combined with Australia’s unique infrastructure and abundance of natural resources, will help ensure companies in this space can get new products and ingredients to market quickly, at lower cost and risk.”

Stansfield wants to build Asia-Pacific’s largest network of precision fermentation facilities, using the hyper-fermentation platform they’ve developed to will unlock the production of new forms of food, feed and fibre in a $700 billion global industry opportunity. Cauldron kicked off the year the landing $528,000 from the Queensland Government for a feasibility study on setting up a Future Foods BioHub to Mackay in northern Queensland.

Meanwhile, David Kestenbaum, from ZX Ventures, VC arm of brewer AB InBev, has swapped investing in biotech and alt proteins for the other side of the cap table as CFO and cofounder at Cauldron.

The company counts other startups among its client base, including agtech Loam Bio, which last month announced a $105 million Series B for its plan to use soil microbes for carbon capture. Cauldron’s network is helping them accelerate production of their microbial technology. Another client is Western Australian plastics replacement startup ULUU, which is also backed by Main Sequence and is using seaweed to replace plastics ranging from food packaging to durable goods and textiles.

Main Sequence partner Phil Morle said that if Australia doesn’t tackle the opportunity around fermentation, others will.

Precision fermentation is already a crucial part of medicines like insulin and many animal feeds but is often done at smaller scale and overseas,” he said.

“Cauldron will serve as a regional powerhouse for production to ensure Australia plays a part in the future of agriculture and other industries.”

Chris Liu of Horizons Ventures said Australia has the potential to become a world leader in the age of bio-based manufacturing.

“Cauldron’s hyper-fermentation platform provides a supercharger in the quest for scalable precision fermentation without sacrificing cost and efficiency, particularly due to its easy access to abundant local feedstock supply alongside a carbon neutral production process,” he said.