Plant-based nutrition startup The Leaf Protein Co rolls up $850,000 pre-Seed raise

- June 12, 2024 2 MIN READ
CEO and cofounder Fern Ho
The Leaf Protein Co's CEO and cofounder Fern Ho
Victorian startup The Leaf Protein Co has raised $850,000 in a pre-Seed raise as it looks to join the race for palatable meat alternatives. 

The round was led by the Breakthrough Victoria-backed University of Melbourne Genesis Pre-Seed Fund, Loyal VC and LaunchVic’s recently launched agtech sidecar fund, the Hugh Victor Mckay Fund. Previous investors include global alternative proteins VC Big Idea Ventures

The Melbourne-based startup is using sustainable extraction technology to produce nutritious plant proteins from green leaves. The capital will be used to staff up their pilot plant and kick off commercial production.

CEO and cofounder Fern Ho launched by business in 2020 and was a Startmate fellow the following year. She’s spend nearly two decades in product management and marketing globally and became focused on provenance and the impact of food on health after her own brush with food intolerances and allergies. 

She said the team has successfully extracted their ingredients from over 13 different plant materials, including waste leafy vegetables and regeneration plants such as saltbush. They’re also using common crops such as alfalfa to give farmers additional revenue streams.

“With conventional food systems reducing the biodiversity of our agriculture, 75% of plant genetic diversity has been lost since the 1900’s. This loss of biodiversity significantly impacts our global food security, as the demand for protein increases with the world’s population growth,” Ho said.

Our unique extraction process retains and preserves the functional nutrition held within plants to create sustainable protein sources.  All by-products from this process are also marketable as other food ingredients, animal feed and packaging materials, meaning we essentially produce no waste streams from the leafy green input material.” 

Her cofounder, Connor Balfany, points to the process as giving farmers a backup revenue stream in the era of climate change.

“As our weather patterns become increasingly unpredictable, this creates valuable alternative crops for farmers in the future,” he said. 

Connor Balfany at The Leaf Protein Co’s pilot plant

The Leaf Protein Co differs from many other startups in the space in focusing on the nutritional aspects of plants to create an additive, rather than creating faux meat

Genesis Pre-Seed Fund CEO Hun Gan said The Leaf Protein Co as a great example of an Australian research innovation with the potential to positively impact lives around the world.  

“As an early investor, the University of Melbourne is proud to see The Leaf Protein Co take these important next steps towards translating their new technology into a business with the potential to improve lives, address significant global challenges and deliver impact at scale.”  

“Providing critical pre-seed investment and business expertise is part of the Fund’s ongoing commitment to supporting the creation and growth of global research impact via entrepreneurial pathways.”

LaunchVic, Dr Kate Cornick identified The Leaf Protein Co as a high potential startup, building the future of productivity and sustainability in the agriculture sector.

“We’re delighted to back The Leaf Protein Co as one of the first investments from the Hugh Victor McKay Fund, our sidecar fund with Agriculture Victoria,” she said. 

“Fern and Connor’s team have developed proprietary technology that could unlock one of the planet’s most abundant and sustainable protein sources, and it’s been a pleasure to follow their journey since graduating from the SproutX program in 2021.”


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