Compound Foods, a food technology company, raised $4.5 million to make synthetic coffee. The company has raised a total of $5.3 million to date with investors from a Seed funding round, including Lowercarbon Capital, SVLC, Humboldt Fund, Collaborative Fund, Maple VC, Petri Bio and angel investors.
The startup uses synthetic biology to recreate the molecular structure of coffee in order to reduce and eliminate the use of coffee beans.
Rising temperatures, climate changes and increasing pests are negatively impacting coffee yields and reducing their quality.
To combat this, Compound Foods’ coffee has the same flavors, caffeine and aromas of regular coffee but without the negative environmental impacts. Coffee is one of the most populating crops in the value chain. Processing and producing coffee often allow discharged waste to pollute the waters and ultimately kill aquatic plants and animals. The more that coffee is consumed and sold, the more significant its impact on the planet.
Maricel Saenz is the founder and CEO of Compound Foods. She is a Costa Rica-born entrepreneur who is passionate about how climate change is affecting coffee growers worldwide. She is a coffee enthusiast, but she’s not alone. For example, 64 percent of American adults consume coffee every day, making around 400 million cups of coffee per day. Americans commonly consume two to three cups of coffee per day.
It takes 140 liters of water along the coffee growth chain to make one cup of coffee. This new technology recreated the use of sustainable ingredients but did not use as much water.
“Temperatures are rising and combined with erratic rains are leading to lower crop yield,” Saenz told TechCrunch.
“The same crop can’t grow in the same place anymore, or it will be a lower quality product. As a result, farmers in Costa Rica are having to sell their land or go higher up the mountain. Experts predict that 50 percent of farmland will be unsuitable in the next couple of decades,” she added.
The company extracts molecules from coffee and makes it in the lab. It can still refer to its product as coffee even though it doesn’t contain coffee beans because there is no regulatory definition of the term.
The new funding will be used to improve the formulation and scale up the brand. Compound Food is working towards a soft launch by the end of 2021.
Another competitor in this field is a Seattle-based company called Atomo which makes coffee from fruits and plants. Horizon Ventures, which invests in Impossible Foods, gave Atomo $2.6 million for its molecule coffee development in 2019.
“We looked at green beans, roasted beans and extracted (brewed) coffee samples and through advanced analytical procedures studied the volatile and non-volatile compounds present. By evaluating the individual compounds in coffee, we were able to map the most significant ones contributing to the characteristic aroma and flavor of coffee,” said Jarret Stopforth, the co-founder and chief science officer of Atomo.
The companies want to provide consumers with an alternative option that is more sustainable without compromising taste, texture and aroma. The demand for coffee is increasing and placing negative environmental pressures on the planet, causing the price of coffee to increase and yield to lessen.