SAN FRANCISCO — Food tech startup Equii, formerly Cella Farms, has raised $6 million in seed funding from Khosla Ventures, an early backer of Impossible Foods.
Founded in 2021, Equii has developed a proprietary approach to discovering highly nutritious sources of microbial protein that are used to ferment cereals and produce protein-rich cereal flours. Equii flour contains three to six times more protein than regular flour, with about half as many carbohydrates and all nine essential amino acids.
The first commercial offering is sliced bread with 10 grams of protein per slice. The product will launch in select restaurants and cafes in the coming months and will be available for purchase online next year.
“At Khosla Ventures, we look for companies that have the ability to have a massive impact on society,” said Alice Brooks, Director of Khosla Ventures. “Equii is redefining the natural staples of our diets – starting with bread – to make healthier eating more accessible, and we’re excited to support them on their journey.”
Monica Bhatia, PhD, co-founder and CEO, has 15 years of experience in the bio-manufacturing and commercialization of sustainable products, including food, fuels and chemicals. Most recently, she was Vice President of Process Development at Geltor, a developer of alternative proteins. Baljit Ghotra, PhD, co-founder and chief technology officer, has held research and development roles at Ingredion, Mondelez International, Cargill, ADM, and Nature’s Fynd.
In a recent interview, Dr. Bhatia described an “element of sacrifice” that consumers perceive when choosing nutritious foods. A priority in product development is to maintain the taste and texture of conventional bread, she said, noting that high-protein grain flour has a neutral flavor.
“We were able to check off every metric for how similar this bread was to regular bread,” Dr. Bhatia said. “Bread is very simple when you bake it at home. It’s just water, flour, a little fat, salt, yeast and sugar. Our ingredient package is pretty much that, apart from our protein, and we add a bit of natural preservative.
Equii has raised a total of $8 million in funding to date. Previous investors include kdT Ventures, 1derlife Partners, Accelr8 Partners, Axial Ventures and angel investors in agricultural technologies, food technologies, artificial intelligence, precision fermentation and synthetic biology.
In the future, the startup may launch other breads, such as buns, bagels, and buns. Equii also aims to supply its high-protein cereal flour to manufacturers of cereal-based supplemental staple foods.
“Bread, a household staple, is our first product,” Dr Ghotra said. “Beyond bread, the world-class team at Equii develops a product line including high-protein pasta, nutrition bars and snacks to provide healthy food options throughout the day. We are looking for partners who share our mission to bring sustainable and healthy food to the global consumer.