We eat a lot of poultry. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that the average American consumed 93 pounds in 2018, a record. And in 2014, the combined value of production from broilers, eggs, turkey, and chicken sales was $48.3 billion, up 9% from $44.4 billion the year prior.
Former Blue Apron COO and cofounder Matthew Wadiak doesn’t think it’s a sustainable trend. That’s why he started Cooks Venture, a New York-based agricultural company that leverages tech to develop and promote regenerative farming and transparent supply chains. Following on the heels of a partnership with FreshDirect, the startup today announced the closing of $12 million in secured financing furnished by Amerra Capital Management, a private alternative asset management firm.
Wadiak said the newfound funds will lay the foundation for expanded processing capabilities and collaborative work with scientists to improve industry practices.
“Our goal is to use crop science and state-of-the-art technology to build regenerative processes and change our current food system while mitigating climate change. We’re starting with the most impactful and prolifically eaten food in the world — poultry,” said Wadiak, who points to studies suggesting that sequestering 1% more carbon into the soil could reverse climate change. “Most importantly, this financing will give us the opportunity to further shape how regenerative farming is used within the larger agriculture space and help farmers who are looking to get more involved, all while providing consumers with responsible food choices driven by our proprietary systems.”
Cooks Venture launched in spring 2019, but its team has spent over a decade refining crop and breeding techniques to build a food system capable of supporting its first offering: slow-growth heirloom chickens. The chickens are available nationwide to customers, restaurants, and food retailers in Northern California through a partnership with Golden Gate Meat Company, and they’re raised following the tenets of better soil health, increased biodiversity, integrated pest management, and smarter energy usage.
Ultimately, Cooks Venture hopes to tap technology to reduce the world’s reliance on synthetic fertilizers, and in the process create economies of scale for farmers. To this end, on its 800-acre farm, it taps data from satellite imagery providers, the United States Department of Agriculture, and local soil sensors to optimize crop rotation through cover cropping (planting crops that manage soil health) and heat unit mapping. Cooks tracks year-over-year metrics to determine how its practices are impacting soil health biodiversity, and pest populations, and it makes adjustments accordingly.
And as a result of this latest funding round, Cooks Venture was able to refurbish an air-chilled processing facility that can produce up to 700,000 chickens per week. It intends to open 30 such facilities in total.
“We strongly support Cooks Venture and its dedication to improving the agriculture ecosystem through scientifically proven regenerative practices and innovation,” said Amerra managing director Chris Chapman. “Matthew’s impressive background in the food and technology industries, combined with his drive to create lasting change in the agriculture space, will surely solidify Cooks Venture as a household name.”