Precision fermentation scale-up Cauldron now at "industrially relevant scale" amid $9.5m raise

Precision fermentation scale-up Cauldron now at "industrially relevant scale" amid $9.5m raise

Cauldron co-founder and CEO Michele Stansfield.

A game-changing technology from Orange, NSW that promises to lift food production through continuous hyper-fermentation has now raised $20 million in the space of 12 months, as Cauldron looks to finalise plans for the construction of a 500,000-litre facility to churn out bio-based products such as alternative meats and dairy.

Unlike the standard "batch" method of short-term fermentation methods currently used in the market, Cauldron has developed a novel bioreactor design and proprietary growth medium formulation that allow the process to go uninterrupted for long stints.

Cauldron has so far successfully run a 10,000-litre production system continuously for more than eight months without contamination or “genetic drift” of the microbes, which are two of the biggest challenges in running long-term fermentation. 

The company claims this breakthrough means its technology can out-produce traditional batch systems five times larger with its smaller, far less costly bio-reactors.

These milestones enticed global venture capital funds SOSV and In-Q-Tel to its latest $9.5 million Series A round, alongside existing investors Main Sequence and Horizons Ventures which tipped $10.5 million into Cauldron's brewing broth in March 2023.

"Precision fermentation is an amazing technology, because it enables bio based production of a wide range of products with diverse applications," says Chis Liu of Horizons Ventures.

"To date, the technology has been hamstrung by its costs compared to conventional production methods, but Cauldron’s unique solution significantly improves the competitiveness of precision fermentation both in capital and operating expenditure."

The raise will enable Cauldron to support faster-than-expected customer growth, build robust proof cases around the application of its hyper-fermentation technology, and finalise partners and plans for the new facility, which would be 20 times larger than its existing 25,000-litre facility in Orange.

Orange is also the headquarters of another expansive Australian ag-tech success story, carbon capture scale-up Loam Bio which officially launched commercially in the US at the start of this year.

Cauldron lists Loam Bio amongst its customers, and in October last year it announced a partnership with Boston Bioprocess to work on economically viable paths to scale from lab to manufacturing. Last month, Cauldron received the regulatory approval of a DIR200 licence for production trials of animal protein ingredients.

At the time, Cauldron co-founder and CEO Michele Stansfield said this one-of-a-kind licence would significantly de-risk Australian-based precision fermentation technologies.

Stansfield helped develop Cauldron’s technology as the general manager at Agritechnology, which spent 35 years researching and developing continuous fermentation systems for the agricultural market in Australia. Cauldron acquired Agritechnology’s precision fermentation IP through its seed round in 2023 in order to commercialise and scale the technology globally. 

"Cauldron has proven its precision fermentation at an industrially relevant scale, unlocking a significant decrease - between 30 and 50 per cent - in the cost of goods for our customers versus traditional batch fermentation," says Stansfield, who co-founded the business with David Kestenbaum.

"From biofuels and agriculture to cosmetics and chemicals, the opportunities are immense, and with the support of our incredible investors, we’re poised to capitalise on them."

SOSV GP and IndieBio managing director Po Bronson describes Stansfield and Cauldron's history of succeeding at long-run fermentation as "unparalleled".

"The benefits of the technology - the ability to continuously produce, up to 50 per cent lower net unit costs, and 20 per cent more output with 45 per cent less capex -dismantle a major obstacle for the industry and position the company as a critical manufacturing partner for companies building a more sustainable future," Bronson says.

"Our investments include technologies needed to safeguard the interests of the US and its Allies," adds IQT director Olivia Jones. "Food insecurity and competition among countries to control resources is a real risk. The technology Cauldron has created in enabling alternative ways of producing food, proteins, and materials on an industrial scale will be game changing."

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