Shark Tank judge Mark Cuban is placing his bets on innovating biotech company Wild Earth once again, helping the company secured a $23 million investment package during its latest funding round. Wild Earth – known for its innovative cell-based pet food – hosted its latest investment round with the help of Cuban, vegan actor Paul Welsey, and several investment firms. The California-based start-up launched in an attempt to provide healthier pet foods without the need for animal slaughter. The sustainable alternative also boasts a lighter environmental footprint, highlighting the sustainable benefits of cell-based pet food.

“Wild Earth is the leader in plant-based pet food,” Cuban said. “I’m excited about what they have accomplished and look forward to watching them become the leader in cell-based meat pet food.”

The biotech company currently offers a selection of vegan dog food, but following the successful funding round, the brand is looking to develop cell-based food for companion animals as soon as 2022. The brand, waiting on regulatory approval, will use the funding from this investment package to enhance its development practices and prepare for nationwide distribution.

In 2019, the company revealed its signature cell-based dog treat made from culture koji – a fungus that it replicates in a lab setting using a property process that boosts the protein value. The process allows Wild Earth to create a cell-based koji with more protein than an animal-based steak. The debut marked the company’s first interaction with Cuban, who awarded CEO Ryan Bethencourt $550,000 for 10 percent of the company. Since then, the company has gained substantial traction, catching the attention of multiple investment firms including One Ventures, Veginvest, and Big Idea Ventures.

“Meat production is the most climate intensive part of our food system, driving nearly as many emissions as the global energy sector,” One Venture founder Tom Chi said. “Wild Earth is changing the game by addressing the 20-plus percent of meat consumption that goes to pets. Their team has a unique combination of consumer instinct and deep scientific skill, allowing them to create an exceptionally healthy plant-based pet food that pets love. We’re excited to have led their last round and look forward to making a difference for the planet and your pets!”

Wild Earth’s central mission is to minimize the excessive meat production needed to produce pet food without jeopardizing pet food’s nutritional value. The company aims to use a combination of cell, fungus, and plant-based ingredients to promote sustainability in the pet food market. The brand intends to develop cell-based chicken, beef, and seafood from its proprietary technology in order to provide a wide variety of products on the market.

A report from UCLA researchers found that cat and dog food is responsible for nearly a quarter of greenhouse gases caused by animal agriculture. The report claims that cutting meat production in the pet food industry could prevent approximately 64 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions.

Wild Earth joins a growing cell-based pet food industry among other companies such as Because, Animals. Earlier this year, the company revealed its inaugural product with a cell-based mouse meat cookie for cats. Debuting the new product at a SuperZoo trade show in Las Vegas, Because, Animals aims to release its cell-based cat treat to the market by 2022.

“The ultimate goal of most cultured meat companies is to create a product that will allow animals to be taken out of the food supply chain,” CEO, and co-founder of Because Animals Shannon Falconer told Fast Company in August. “And, given that humans are the largest consumers of traditional meat, it makes sense to focus on humans when making a cultured meat product. However, something that most people are unaware of is that, in addition to humans, there is another hugely significant population driving the animal agriculture industry forward: our pets.”

Mark Cuban's Vegan Investments

The cell-based pet food industry is not the only sustainable venture to peak Cuban’s interest. Cuban – who has been a vegetarian since 2019 – started increasing his plant-based investments over recent years. Through Shark Tank, Cuban invested in snack brand Pan’s Mushroom Jerky, Black-owned vegan meat brand Everything Legendary, plant-based pork brand Snacklins, and vegan protein company Mrs. Goldfarb’s Unreal Deli.

Earlier this year, the billionaire entrepreneur invested $2 million in a kitchen appliance company Numilk – a company that created a machine to make dairy-free milk at home. The company aims to reduce waste while giving consumers a chance of making their own nut- and plant-based milk from oats, almonds, and more.

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