Melbourne startup The Leaf Protein Co to photosynthesise $850k seed raise into new growth

Melbourne startup The Leaf Protein Co to photosynthesise $850k seed raise into new growth

The Leaf Protein Co co-founder and CEO Fern Ho.

A Melbourne-based startup developing sustainable extraction methods for one of the world's most abundant sources of protein, green leaves, has raised $850,000 to bolster its research and make its first hires.

Co-founded in 2020 by product marketing expert Fern Ho and scientist Connor Balfany, The Leaf Protein Co has successfully extracted ingredients from more than 13 different plant materials including the waste of leafy vegetables and regeneration plants such as saltbush.

Currently the business is using common crops such as alfalfa, offering farmers additional revenue streams for its use as a plant protein source.

"With conventional food systems reducing the biodiversity of our agriculture, 75 per cent of plant genetic diversity has been lost since the 1900s," says Ho, co-founder and CEO.

"This loss of biodiversity significantly impacts our global food security, as the demand for protein increases with the world’s population growth."

Ho says the startup's 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."

Belfany, the company's co-founder and chief scientific officer (CSO) adds that as weather patterns become increasingly unpredictable, The Leaf Protein Co enables valuable alternative crops for farmers in the future.

The Leaf Protein Co co-founder and CSO Connor Balfany.
The Leaf Protein Co co-founder and CSO Connor Balfany.

The investment round was led by the University of Melbourne’s Genesis Pre Seed Fund in partnership with Breakthrough Victoria, with co-investment coming from LaunchVic’s Hugh Victor Mckay Fund and Loyal VC. The startup is also supported by Big Idea Ventures, a global VC focused on alternative proteins.

The investment will allow The Leaf Protein Co to make the first hires to optimise its pilot plant, including further improvements in extraction to increase protein purity, and commence production to service interested customers.

The Genesis Pre-Seed Fund CEO, Hun Gan, has praised 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," says Gan.

"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."

The Hugh Victor McKay Fund is a sidecar fund for Victorian AgTech startups run by LaunchVic, with funding from Agriculture Victoria. LaunchVic CEO 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 says.

"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.

"We look forward to supporting the team in their next steps as they scale up their operations and create new jobs - the ultimate goal for us at LaunchVic."

Co-founder Connor Balfany at the company's pilot plant.
Co-founder Connor Balfany at the company's pilot plant.

 

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