Kiwi alt protein startup Jooules chows down on NZ$1 million Seed raise

- May 17, 2024 2 MIN READ
The Jooules team: founder and CEO, David McLellan, chief scientific officer Luke Stevenson and research scientist Usama Mukhtar
New Zealand fermented proteins startup Jooules has raised NZ$1 million (A$920k) from local accelerator and investor Sprout Agritech.

Jooules is among eight NZ$1m investments Sprout has made, with additional funding from partners US-based Finistere Ventures, dairy firm Fonterra and venture builder OurCrowd, as well as the Callaghan Innovation’s Deep Tech Incubator program.

Other recent NZ$1m investments include Auckland agritech startup Metrovate, which is developing an environmentally friendly precision biostimulant for crops.

Jooules is part climate tech and alternative proteins, using fermentation t0 develop a protein production process that feeds on CO2, turning it into food.

Founder David McLellan said the funding will go towards the next steps in commercialising their novel fermentation technology.

“In laboratory settings, we have proved the ability to harness the power of ancient microbes through gaseous fermentation to produce functional food-grade protein from carbon dioxide,” he said.

“Our ingredients-based protein will be nutritionally dense and resilient with major ethical benefits when you consider that we will be able to carbon capture emissions streams from other industries.”

Also on the to do list is expanding technical team and working with Crown research entity SCION via specialist equipment to help fast-track product development.

The techniques Jooules has developed are expected to consume around 600 times less water and 99% less land compared to traditional protein production. The startup is unique in New Zealand in harnessing microbes to produce high-quality protein ingredients from CO2 on a potentially huge scale.

McLellan said early testing has established that the proteins produced by gaseous fermentation meet UN Food Agriculture Organisation standards for the nutritional density of complete proteins, including having all nine essential amino acids.

“Our protein is designed specifically for food manufacturers around the world seeking a more sustainable protein source and will be ideal for both human and high-value companion animal diets,” he said.

“Through the recent advancements in fermentation technology, we are able to produce a new source of nutritionally complete foods. Change isn’t necessarily about disrupting what we currently have, but being able to produce significant new export revenues from brand new technology,” adds David.

Sprout investment manager Warren Bebb said Jooules has invented a way to address a global challenge that uses the underlying problem, carbon dioxide, as a pathway to food.

“The team’s approach leapfrogs other solutions in both innovation and ambition and we’re hugely excited to see what the team is able to achieve as it accelerates its investment into product development and testing,” he said.

McLellan said the APAC region is the initial target for launch following regulatory approval as a ‘novel food’ over the next financial year before global ambitions roll out

“Producing a product we can sell – business to business – empowers the world’s food manufacturers to address the source of the problem – Scope 3 emissions associated with their supply chain – at scale,” he said.

“We’re excited to be powering the future of food from New Zealand to the world.”