SAN FRANCISCO — Food technology 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 proteins that are used to ferment grains and produce high-protein grain flours. Equii’s flour has 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 is launching into select restaurants and cafes within the coming months and will be available to purchase online next year.
"At Khosla Ventures, we seek out companies that have the ability to make a massive impact on society," said Alice Brooks, principal at Khosla Ventures. "Equii is redefining the natural staples of our diet – starting with bread – to make healthier nutrition more accessible, and we are excited to back them on their journey."
Monica Bhatia, PhD, co-founder and chief executive officer, has 15 years of experience in 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.
Dr. Bhatia in a recent interview described an “element of sacrifice” consumers perceive when choosing nutritious foods. A priority in product development is maintaining the taste and texture of conventional bread, she said, noting the high-protein grain flour has a neutral flavor.
“We’ve been able to check the box on every single metric in terms of how this bread is similar to regular bread,” Dr. Bhatia said. “Bread is very simple when you bake it at home. It’s just water, flour, a little bit of fat, some salt and yeast and sugar. Our ingredient deck is pretty much that, other than our protein, and we add a little 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 agriculture technology, food technology, artificial intelligence, precision fermentation and synthetic biology.
Looking ahead, the startup may launch other bread, such as buns, bagels and rolls. Equii also aims to supply its high-protein grain flour to manufacturers of additional grain-based staples.“Bread, a household staple, is our debutant product,” Dr. Ghotra said. “Beyond bread, Equii’s world-class team is developing a pipeline of products that include high-protein pasta, nutrition bars and snack foods to provide healthy food options throughout the day. We are on a lookout for partners who share our mission of bringing sustainable and healthy foods to the consumer globally.”