Uncaged Innovations Raises $5.6 Million for Its Bio-based Leather Alternative

PARIS — Next-Gen biomaterial company Uncaged Innovations has raised $5.6 million seed funding to commercialize its bio-based, plastic-free leather made from grains.

The round was led by Green Circle Foodtech Ventures and Fall Line Capital, with participation from Ponderosa Ventures, Golden Seeds and Jaguar Land Rover’s investment arm InMotion Ventures. The latter was an existing investor in the company as part of a $2 million pre-seed round last June.

That funding round went to scaling the company’s tech to produce millions of meters per year of its roll-to-roll material.

The new round will boost the company’s commercial launch as it scales up production and builds out its manufacturing team.

The four-year-old, New York-based company was cofounded in 2020 by chief executive officer Stephanie Downs and Dr. Xiaokun Wang with a focus on creating leather alternatives using plant collagen for consumer and automotive goods.

The company’s technology fuses plant collagen with other bio-based elements to create a fibral network that mimics the texture and performance of animal leather. The material is fully biobased and free of plastic.

“The tide has turned aggressively toward materials that are sustainable, and we plan to capture that momentum. This funding round brings Uncaged another step closer to achieving our ultimate goal of disrupting every industry that relies on leather,” Downs said.

With the material, they are currently developing prototypes for Jaguar Land Rover, and have been in talks with several unnamed luxury brands.

Biomaterials leather alternative Uncaged Innovations

Uncaged Innovations leather alternative material.

Courtesy Uncaged Innovations

“Green Circle and Fall Line not only share our mission but also bring tremendous operational expertise,” added Downs.

Fall Line Capital is an early-stage and strategic investor in science, food and agriculture tech companies, and Green Circle Foodtech Ventures is an early-stage investor in climate tech companies in food production and distribution.

Green Circle Capital founder and managing directory Stu Strumwasser said the Uncaged Innovations technology is a “significant breakthrough in an industry that has long awaited a breakout innovation.”

Uncaged Innovations’ grain-based leather will have applications across product categories. “The opportunity is enormous, and we believe that their ability to provide a high-quality material that is scaled and price competitive is a game changer,” he said.

Fall Line Capital founder and managing director Eric O’Brien approached the investment as a way of opening new channels for farmers who are under price pressure in the commodities markets.

“While others have attempted to replicate leather using various inputs, we felt the use of structural proteins to mimic collagen was transformational,” he said. “By diversifying and applying greater value to agricultural streams, we can strengthen our farm systems and provide consumers with more sustainable goods.”

Biomaterials leather alternative Uncaged Innovations cofounder Xiaokun Wang

Co-founder Dr. Xiaokun Wang

Courtesy Uncaged Innovations

Uncaged Innovations’ process uses 93 percent less water, 72 percent less energy than traditional animal leather, and is biodegradable as its coating is made from corn. Using grain byproducts creates 95 percent less greenhouse gas emissions than raising cattle.

The material can be a plug-and-play solution in existing supply chains of manufacturers.

The material can also be formulated to different durability levels — meaning it can be used for a wide range of products, from handbags to seating — and can be dyed during the production process instead of using traditional polluting tanning methods.

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