MeliBio’s honey production, minus the bee, will have you buzzing

MeliBio disrupts the 9,000-year-old honey production method, eliminating the bee and injecting precision fermentation and plant science.

Darko Mandich, a former bee honey industry executive, and Aaron Schaller, a scientist and hobbyist chef, started the San Francisco-based company in 2020 with the goal of bringing sustainability to the global honey market. of $10 billion, which Mandich described as “one of the most unsustainable agricultural sectors with a broken supply chain and quality issues.

Mandich explained that his epiphany came while reading a Wired article that explained how keeping honey bees in bee hives actually kills all 20,000 species of wild and native bees due to the loss of diversity in the bee population.

“We want to change the food industry in a way that makes food sustainable, nutritious, and delivers it free to our most cherished animals, in our case bees,” he told TechCrunch.

Some companies are already working with bees, such as Beewise, which builds automated hives using precision robotics, and BeeHero, which monitors bee health.

Israeli company Bee-io is also working on bee-free honey using patent-pending biological processes. However, Mandich touts MeliBio as the first company to make real honey without bees. The product was tested in four restaurants in New York with a positive result.

MeliBio came up with two ways to make honey without bees: the first is to use plant science to understand how bees access plants and what they get out of them to make honey.

Second, how to improve the molecular composition to scale and manufacture the product. This is where precision fermentation comes in – identifying the organisms that are suitable for this application so that it can be used widely i.e. in a variety of ways, from basting food to cooking. with.

The company has now raised $5.7 million in seed funding to help it expand into restaurant and business-to-business applications. In fact, MeliBio is already collaborating with 30 companies that have signed letters of intent to perform validation studies, Mandich said.

Astanor Ventures led the round and was joined by investors including Skyview Capital, XRC Labs, Collaborative Fund, Midnight Venture Partners, Alumni Ventures, Big Idea Ventures and Hack Ventures.

MeliBio, Mattie Ellis, Aaron Schaller, Darko Mandich, Benjamin Mason

The MeliBio team, from left to right, Mattie Ellis, Aaron Schaller, Darko Mandich and Benjamin Mason. Picture credits: MéliBio

“We are excited about MeliBio’s approach to building next-generation food technology that bridges plant science and precision fermentation,” said Christina Ulardic, partner at Astanor Ventures, via email. “Darko and Aaron are passionate about reducing pressure on commercial bee supply. chain and therefore improving the diversity of pollinators. We are quite impressed with their first product.

The new funding will be deployed in R&D and scale-up of its microbial fermentation process and in the official product launch in April. Mandich also wants to increase the number of full-time employees from four to 10 by the end of the year, in addition to 14 contractors.

Although the company is in pre-revenue, he believes that will change once the product is released and MeliBio can focus on fulfilling letters of intent from multi-billion dollar food companies and restaurants willing to work. with them.

Next, Mandich plans to examine the $500 billion ingredients market and how to leverage the company’s precision fermentation technology to share the future of this market.

“By using science as an alternative means, we are reducing the pressure on wild and native bees,” he added. “There is a growing demand for honey, but by making it our way, we are helping the biodiversity of bees. American companies import honey from all parts of the world, and this process is becoming increasingly complicated and the quality is not always guaranteed, which means that it may not be real honey. By doing it here, we simplify the supply chain, and with a national supplier, there are no delivery delays or quality issues. MeliBio will produce honey in three shifts, 365 days a year and will make it price parity with the honey on the market.

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