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News for February 3, 2021

Recent Transactions in the Nutrition and Health & Wellness Industry:

Cutback Coach’s mindful drinking program picks up $3.1M

Seeing a “massive, untapped opportunity” to help Americans build healthier habits around drinking, Cutback Coach (San Francisco, California) created a text-message-based program that leverages behavioral psychology tactics to help users cut back on alcohol. The startup, founded last year, closed a $3.1 million seed round from investors Uncork Capital, Adjacent Venture Capital, Fitbit cofounder James Park, Lyft cofounder and CEO Logan Green, MyFitness Pal cofounder Mike Lee and others. 

Phospholutions takes in $10.3M to help farmers use less fertilizer

The U.S. used more than 20 million tons of fertilizer in 2019. Phospholutions (State College, Pennsylvania) raised $10.3 million in a series A to commercialize a fertilizer additive that it predicts will reduce that amount and the corresponding environmental problems. The product improves plants’ uptake of nutrients so farmers don’t use as much of fertilizer. This year, Phospholutions plans to run large-scale field trials and build out its team, which the funding will support. Continental Grain Company’s CGC Ventures led the round, which included Maumee Ventures, Tekfen Ventures, the Ag Ventures Alliance Cooperative and 1855 Capital. 

Mealco scores $7M to help chefs launch delivery restaurants

A technology company focused on eliminating barriers to opening a new restaurant in the age of COVID-19 announced a $7 million funding round. Mealco (New York, New York) says chefs who use its solution start a delivery-only restaurant in six to eight weeks, without renting a kitchen, purchasing ingredients or hiring staff. Chefs create their menus, then Mealco sources ingredients locally, oversees cooks it hired and, through third-party apps, delivers meals to customers. Two New York-based restaurants have launched under its model, and Mealco says 50 chefs are on the waitlist. Rucker Park Capital led the round; FJLabs, Reshape, 2048 Ventures, Oceans Ventures, Wilshire Lane Partners and angel investors also got in on it. 

AI-powered agriculture gets a boost with Aerobotics’ $17M round

In an oversubscribed series B, agriculture technology firm Aerobotics (Cape Town, South Africa) raised $17 million. Its platform employs artificial intelligence, drones and other robotics to help tree and fruit farmers identify problems, estimate yield and better manage their crops. The investment arm of consumer internet company Naspers led the round. Cathay AfricInvest Innovation, FMO: Entrepreneurial Development Bank and Platform Investment Partners also participated. Aerobotics operates in 18 countries across Africa, the Americas, Europe and Australia. It plans to use the investment to further develop its technology. 

Dr. Prager’s sells majority stake to PE firm Vestar

Vestar Capital Partners (New York, New York), has made a majority investment in Dr. Praeger’s Sensible Foods (Elmwood Park, New Jersey). A pioneer in the plant-based and better-for-you foods business, Dr. Praeger’s was started in 1994 by a pair of cardiologists and grew into a family owned business with a large line of frozen veggie burgers, vegetable-based snacks and seafood. Vestar has a number of other investments in the better-for-you food industry, including early-stage investor BIGR Ventures, consumer data company IRI and baking brand Simple Mills. Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed. 

Wesana Health nabs $4M to use psychedelics to treat TBI

A new $4 million convertible note round for Wesana Health (Chicago, Illinois) will support the company as it enters the emerging psychedelics space. Founded by former professional hockey player Daniel Carcillo, Wesana Health states that its mission is to treat traumatic brain injury and other mental health ailments using psilocybin (the active ingredient in “magic mushrooms”) and other natural therapies. It plans to use the funding to begin preclinical and clinical work on such treatments and build out its senior leadership team. The Conscious Fund and Ambria Capital led the funding. 

Vegan pizza maker One Planet eyes Scandinavia with £360K round

Plant-based investors Veg Capital and Kale United, along with angel investors, are getting behind One Planet Pizza (Norfolk, England) with a £360,000 (about $490,000) funding round. Started in 2016 by a father-son team, One Planet Pizza sells frozen plant-based pizzas packaged in a sleeve made from recyclable materials. The funding will give it more resources and bandwidth to improve its production capacity, release new products and break into the Scandinavian marketplace this year. 

Brain health supps startup Heights takes off with £1.7M from crowdfunding

Equipped with £1.7 million (about $2 million) raised via the Seedrs crowdfunding platform, Heights (London, England) has formally launched a subscription service for what it calls high-quality, sustainably sourced, plant-based supplements for brain care. Several notable entrepreneurs participated, as well as early stage investor Forward Partners. Heights says it will use the funds to grow its customer base and develop new products, including a forthcoming probiotic aimed at cognitive and mental health. 

Bayer leads $40M series B for anti-allergy food tech firm

Ukko (Tel Aviv, Israel) closed a series B for its AI-based approach to eliminating food allergies and sensitivities. Bayer’s corporate venture unit, Leaps by Bayer, led the $40 million round. Other investors included Continental Grain Company, PeakBridge Ventures, Skyviews Life Science, Fall Line Capital, Khosla Ventures, Innovation Endeavors and TIME Ventures. Using a combination of artificial intelligence and bioengineering, Ukko says it can map and alter problematic aspects of a food protein that trigger an allergy. It’s developing both functional food ingredients and medical therapeutics. 

Egg-white snack brand Quevos secures investment from Kind founder

During an appearance on the TV show Shark Tank, snack brand and NCN past presenter Quevos (Chicago, Illinois) won over guest judge and KIND founder Daniel Lubetzky. He made a deal with the startup reportedly involving a $200,000 investment and another $200,000 as a line of credit. Quevos makes a range of low-carb, egg-white based chips in flavors such as sweet barbecue and sour cream and onion. The chips are sold online and in 1,000 retail outlets. 

Pea milk startup secures £4.8M for growth in U.S., UK, Canada

Funding continues to flow into dairy alternative companies as plant-based milk maker Sproud (Malmo, Sweden) announces a £4.8 million (about $6.6 million) investment from VGC Partners. The startup will use the funding to grow its team, develop its product offerings and build its brand in core markets including the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada. Sproud’s line of shelf-stable milk substitutes are made with a blend of pea protein, oils and vitamins. The company launched in 2018 and made its debut in the U.S. and Canada last year. 

BlueNalu brings in $60M for lab-grown seafood

Cell-based seafood startup BlueNalu (San Diego, California) has $60 million in debt financing to support its work toward launching its cultured mahi — possibly this year. The startup’s seafood products are grown from fish cells. BlueNalu says plans are underway to open a pilot production facility, complete its regulatory review with the FDA and begin testing its products in some U.S. foodservice locations. The financing came from Rage Capital, Agronomics, Lewis & Clark AgriFood, McWin, KBW Ventures and Siddhi Capital. 

Grocery delivery without the plastic lands Modern Milkman £5M

The Modern Milkman (Lancashire, England), which delivers fresh groceries from local suppliers to customers’ doors in returnable and reusable packaging, has raised £5 million (about $6.9 million) from ETF Partners. Though it began as a local milk delivery service, the startup has expanded to include other farm-fresh groceries such as juice, eggs, butter, bread and produce. Users order through the website or app for next-day delivery. With the funding, Modern Milkman hopes to grow its sustainable grocery service across the U.K. 

Natural beauty manufacturer SV Labs sells to PE firm

Smith & Vandiver Corp. (Watsonville, California), a contract manufacturer for natural beauty and personal care products, has been acquired by San Francisco Equity Partners for an undisclosed price. Better known as SV Labs, the company works with its customers—including CPG companies, emerging natural brands, online sellers and national retailers—on R&D, formulation, manufacturing, packaging and more. SFEP says it will offer the “nimble” and “innovative” company operational and strategic support as it continues to scale. Other beauty brands in SFEP’s portfolio include Japonesque, Yes To and Jane Iredale. 

Cricket purveyor Entomo Farms raises CA$3.7M, plans new consumer brand

Unnamed investors in Canada and Asia led a CA$3.7 million (about US$2.9 million) financing round for past NCN presenter Entomo Farms (Norwood, Ontario, Canada). Founded by a trio of brothers in 2014, the company supplies sustainable protein alternatives in the form of cricket powders and whole roasted insects to dozens of brands and food companies. Entomo Farms says it’s expanding its facilities to meet growing demand and plans to launch a new consumer brand this year.

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