Singapore plant-based meat startup Karana closes US$1.7m seed funding

KARANA, which is set to launch "pork" made from organic jackfruit this year, has closed its seed funding round with US$1.7 million, the Singapore-based startup announced on Thursday.  

Investors include chief executive officer of Monde Nissin Corp, Henry Soesanto, who acquired Quorn Foods for US$831 million in 2015; Big Idea Ventures, a Temasek and Tyson Foods-backed fund dedicated to plant-based foods; and Germi8, a venture capital firm which invests in agri-food startups. 

Also participating in the funding round were angel investors including Hong Kong-based food and beverage entrepreneurs, Kevin Poon and Gerald Li. 

Karana plans to use the funds to launch its first range of plant-based meats and dim sum products in Singapore, as well as to accelerate its research and development (R&D) capabilities. The funds will also be used to build a regional food-tech team. 

For its first ingredient, Karana has used proprietary techniques to transform "responsibly sourced organic jackfruit into a 'pork' that comes shredded or minced", the company said. 

Added Dan Riegler, Karana's co-founder: "Sustainability has never been more important, especially when it comes to food, and our first base ingredient was carefully chosen with this in mind. 

"Jackfruit is an extremely efficient crop with high yields and low water usage making it friendly to smallholder farmers... Sixty per cent of jackfruit is currently being wasted, a contributor to global warming, so at Karana we'll be reducing that wastage, while working with farmers to support the local economy."

Separately, Enterprise Singapore (ESG) has been connecting the startup to food manufacturers that can be potential partners in its commercialisation journey.

Karana is set to launch its "whole-plant pork" made from jackfruit in Singapore this year in collaboration with some restaurants, while its products will be available through retail in early 2021, the company said. 

Bernice Tay, director of the food manufacturing division at ESG, noted that Singapore's vibrant startup ecosystem offers food-tech startups quick access to capital, mentorship expertise and R&D facilities.

"We are heartened to see Karana selecting Singapore as the choice location to set up its headquarters and launch its brand, with the aim to expand into Asia, one of the fastest-growing regions globally," said Ms Tay. 

She added that startups like Karana offer innovations to meet changing consumer needs, and create new job opportunities.