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Uncaged Innovations Raises $5.6 Million to Advance Grain-Based Leather Alternative

Uncaged Innovations, a biomaterials start-up based in New York, has successfully raised $5.6 million in a seed investment round. The funds will be used to support the commercial launch of the company’s grain-based leather and expand its team, including its manufacturing staff.

Founded in 2020 by CEO Stephanie Downs and CTO Dr. Xiaokun Wang, Uncaged Innovations has developed a groundbreaking process through its technology platform, BioFuze. This process integrates structural proteins derived from grains into fibrous networks, creating a new material that mimics the feel and functionality of conventional leather.

According to the company, its biomaterial leather emits 95 percent less greenhouse gases (GHG), uses 93 percent less water, and consumes 72 percent less energy than traditional animal leather. Moreover, it is completely plastic-free.

Uncaged aims to offer an eco-friendly alternative to cow leather, which is sourced from the livestock sector responsible for approximately 14.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions (including meat and dairy production). Additionally, the cattle industry uses substantial water resources, with around 2,000 gallons needed to produce a single pound of beef.

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

The seed round was led by Green Circle Foodtech Ventures and Fall Line Capital, along with Ponderosa Ventures, Golden Seeds, and existing investor InMotion Ventures, the investment arm of JLR (Jaguar Land Rover). This follows a $2 million pre-seed round last year, which included investments from VegInvest, InMotion Ventures, and other contributors.

“What Uncaged Innovations has achieved with its grain-based technology is a significant breakthrough in an industry that has long awaited a breakout innovation,” said Stu Strumwasser, founder and managing director of Green Circle Capital. “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.”

Eric O’Brien, founder and managing director of Fall Line Capital, added: “While others have attempted to replicate leather using various inputs, we felt the use of structural proteins to mimic collagen was transformational. We understand the margin pressure farmers face growing commodity grains, and we are constantly on the lookout for ways to help them capture more value from their production.”

“By diversifying and applying greater value to agricultural streams, we can strengthen our farm systems and provide consumers with more sustainable goods.”

Uncaged Innovations is poised to revolutionize the leather industry with its sustainable, grain-based leather, providing an environmentally friendly alternative that reduces greenhouse gas emissions, water usage, and energy consumption.

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