Meatless Dog Food Startup Launches With $4 Million

Berkeley, Calif.-based Wild Earth Inc. has opened presales of a meatless option for the quintessential carnivores.

Made of cultured koji, a fungus commonly used in Asian cuisine to ferment soybeans and other popular foods and beverages, Wild Earth’s pet food goes through a process that starts with a petri dish and ends with a high-protein kibble that looks just like any popular dog food.

The startup, which was founded late last year by former IndieBio co-founders Ryan Bethencourt and Ron Shigeta, is backed with $4 million from investors including Stray Dog Capital, Felicis Ventures, Macro Ventures and others.

By removing animals from the equation, Mr. Bethencourt, Wild Earth’s chief executive, said the company hopes to reduce the ecological impact of pet food production. It also aims to eliminate the concern of contamination from drugs used to euthanize animals that ultimately end up in a dog’s bowl.

“Most of the major brands have meat scraps from the ‘4D animals’–dead, dying, diseased or disabled—so there could really be anything in there,” Mr. Bethencourt said. “We’ve taken an easily accessible vegan product that we can easily scale through biotechnology, not factory farming.”

Plus, Mr. Bethencourt said, even though humans aren’t the target audience, it is safe even for them to eat.

“It tastes like a dusty Cheez-It,” he said.

Despite the niche appeal of its product, Wild Earth is going after the entire pet-food market, which industry estimates put at around $30 billion annually.

Source: Wall Street Journal