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$15mUSD Series A accelerates mission to create new protein system

$15mUSD Series A accelerates mission to create new protein system

Leaft Foods attracted the attention of international and local investors with its innovation that enables the extraction of plant protein from sustainably-farmed green leaves, for use in a range of foods.

Nick Walker

Nick Walker

08 April 2022

12min read


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Canterbury, New Zealand (4am NZ Standard Time, Friday 8th April) Leaft Foods today announced a $15mUSD/$22mNZD Series A investment round led by Silicon Valley-based Khosla Ventures, with participation from Ngāi Tahu Holdings via their New Economy Mandate, ACC’s Climate Change Impact Fund, and NBA Basketballer and impact investor Steven Adams.


Leaft Foods attracted the attention of international and local investors with its innovation that enables the extraction of plant protein from sustainably-farmed green leaves, for use in a range of foods. Through this system, Leaft Food has ambitions to transform the agriculture industry for the better.


Founded by Dr John Penno and Maury Leyland Penno and led by CEO Ross Milne, the food-for-climate solutions company is developing emission reduction pathways for livestock farming via its integrated farm system, which produces a protein-optimised animal feed from the co-product of its protein extraction.


With the latest round of funding, the Christchurch-based company will grow its farm system, its technical and product development teams, expand research and development, and enhance manufacturing capacity ahead of market launch.


Leaft Foods Co-Founder Maury Leyland Penno says, “The priority has always been about getting people along on the journey with us. The Leaft system could be truly transformational, and that is what our investment partners are backing.”


"We deeply understand the challenges of the current food system, which is why we have designed a business model that integrates with existing farm systems. Leaft Foods is creating an opportunity for New Zealand agriculture to lead the global plant protein market, which could reach $US36B by 2024.”


Leaft Foods' technology extracts Rubisco, the most abundant protein on the planet found in all green leaves. Rubisco has a complete amino acid profile, similar to beef. Leaft's protein does not require blending to manipulate the protein content or functionality, unlike other plant proteins. In addition to its high digestibility, Leaft's protein has a neutral taste and colour. Its hypoallergenic status could be a gamechanger for people sensitive to whey, soy, or egg protein.


Co-founder Dr John Penno says "Bringing this all-in-one protein to the market will have a huge impact on the lives of people dissatisfied with animal and plant proteins, many of them citing taste and environmental reasons, while also, creating a pathway for New Zealand farmers to diversify into a system with a lower environmental footprint.


CEO Ross Milne adds, "We have spent the last three years validating the Leaft system and proving our protein extraction technology at pilot scale. Embarking on commercialisation means generating an entirely new value chain. Our focus is on developing partnerships with those who share our commitment to creating a food system that prioritises the environment.”

More information

About Khosla Ventures (Lead Investor)

  • Founder Vinod Khosla is considered one of the pioneers of Silicon Valley, founding Sun Microsystems and a long-term investor in Lanzatech
  • Khosla Ventures is consistently ranked one of the premier Venture Capital firms in the world, with US$15b assets under management
  • Profile investments include: Impossible Foods, Stripe, Square, GitLab, Instacart
  • Famously lead Rocket Lab's Series A investment round, and participated in multiple funding rounds thereafter


About the Ngāi Tahu Holdings New Economy Mandate

  • Managed by GreenMount Capital, an investment firm with deep experience and networks in private markets across Australia and New Zealand.
  • Values-guided investment mandate supporting the growth of the pūtea for future generations of Ngāi Tahu whānau, embracing innovation and disruption in new sectors such as alternative proteins, future health & wellbeing, digitisation, AI, energy transition and circular economy.
  • Focussed on growth opportunities that complement the $1.8B asset base of Ngāi Tahu Holdings, which comprises primary sector, tourism, property, listed equities and other direct investments


About ACC’s Climate Change Impact Fund

  • Launched in December 2021, the $100m fund will help New Zealand achieve its net zero target and contribute to the decarbonization of other economies
  • The fund invests in private infrastructure, private property and private equity for commercial return and measurable emissions reductions
  • The fund is one way ACC is helping to address climate change. For example, ACC recently reduced the carbon intensity of its listed equity portfolio by 45%


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