Cooks Venture, the agtech company that aims to revolutionize the chicken industry, today announced the completion of a $ 4 million financing round led by the Golden West Food Group.
Cooks venture has been working in secret for many years, but was launched in 2018 with the plan to completely redesign agriculture. And the key to this strategy? Chicken.
Cook's venture geneticists and scientists have been isolating chicken genetic lines for years to develop a new, protected breed called Pioneer, a kind of heirloom. Most people don't know that no matter what brand of chicken you buy in the store, it's likely one of two breeds, the Cobb 500 or the Ross 308, made by Cobb and Aviagen, respectively.
Both broiler breeds are fast-growing (they can be processed in just over five weeks) and use a three-phase feeding system for growth. This system and breeds are a major reason animal welfare groups express so much concern about the welfare of hen cattle, and they often explain that birds are too young to carry the weight they gain so quickly can.
Cooks Venture turned to science to solve the problem. The company's pioneer chicken can eat a wide variety of foods and can be raised in 60 to 65 days. This means that the Pioneer chickens really roam free-range on the farm. This also means that these chickens with a digestive tract that is suitable for a varied diet and the ability to exercise, lead a healthier life, have a higher omega-3 content and, according to the company, taste better than an average Cobb 500 or Ross 308.
But the chickens themselves are only part of the solution. A byproduct of the multiplication of these fast growing chickens from Cobb and Aviagen is that they have to eat and their diet is very specific. That means farmers have to grow a lot of a crop or two to feed the millions of chickens out there. The result is that our agricultural land is not used efficiently or in an environmentally friendly way.
In fact, Cooks Venture founder Matt Wadiak says that the vast majority of our crop production in the United States is used for ethanol or animal feed related to corn and soy. The USDA says of feed grain that corn accounts for more than 95% of the country's total production and use.
Many farmers would like to use regenerative farming practices, which include creating an ecosystem with biodiversity and many different crops. Who would they sell the additional crops with little demand to?
The answer can now be Cooks Venture. With a strong digestive system, Cooks Venture chickens can eat a diet that comes from a more biologically diverse farm. When Cooks Venture is ready to expand worldwide, the chickens can also eat cereals native to the ecosystems of emerging nations like yucca and quinoa.
Cooks Venture has its own farm and works with farm partners to establish regenerative farming practices for the production of Pioneer chicken feed. Cooks also processes in-house.
The Golden West Food Group is a manufacturer of meat products and high-quality foods such as marinated chicken such as Jack Daniels pork. It is worth noting that GWFG is not a competitor to Cooks Venture because it does not produce any meat products, but is an important distribution partner for the brand.
By partnering with GWFG, Cooks can begin to commercialize its chickens, which are currently sold through some retailers, on the Cooks website and FreshDirect.
As part of the announcement, Cooks Venture also hires Ankur Agrawal as CFO. Wadiak, a co-founder of Blue Apron, worked with Agrawal and said that his understanding of agricultural finance was outstanding.
Editor's Note: An earlier version of this article misidentified the Pioneer chicken and confused HelloFresh with FreshDirect. It has been updated for accuracy reasons.