SANTA BARBARA, CALIF. — Plant protein startup Mikuna Foods raised $5.6 million in seed funding.

Founded by Ricky Echanique, a native Ecuadorian from a fifth-generation farming family, Mikuna specializes in chocho, a regenerative plant that is rich in fiber, iron, zinc, calcium and protein. Sourced in the Andes Mountains, the plant is used to create Mikuna’s flagship protein powder, which comes in pure chocho, vanilla and cacao flavors. All three varieties are non-isolate, lectin-free, vegan, gluten-free, keto-friendly, paleo-friendly and non-GMO. They are available direct-to-consumer through the brand’s e-commerce platform, on Amazon and in retailers and foodservice locations across Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Michigan, Ohio and Texas.

The plant has been used by indigenous communities for thousands of years, but Mr.  Echanique’s Ecuadorian heritage and relationship with the Andean farming community position the company to be the exclusive chocho supplier to the US market, according to Mikuna. The startup will use funds from the $5.6 million round to scale production capacity and launch its products nationally this year. It also plans to invest in product innovation beyond protein supplements.

Mikuna is led by Tara Kriese, former senior vice president of marketing at Impossible Foods. She joined the company as an adviser in 2020 and was named chief executive officer last year.

“Mikuna has identified an exceptionally promising white space in the growing plant-based protein market,” Ms. Kriese said. “Chocho is the future of plant-based proteins, and as we look ahead to the brand's product and innovation pipeline, Mikuna is poised to lead the plant-based industry back to its clean, whole food roots.”

Professional athletes Leticia Bufoni, Mick Fanning and Sage Kotsenburg participated in the oversubscribed seed round alongside music producers Paul Fisher and Chris Lake and filmmakers Bill and Laurie Benenson. Other participants include Joe Kudla, founder and chief executive officer of Vuori Clothing; and Shannon North, president of Boardriders.