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Shropshire startup raises £500k to ‘upcycle’ broccoli stems into plant-based protein


Upp, a sustainable food harvesting startup, has secured £500,000 in pre-seed funding to develop and commercialise its broccoli upcycling technology.

Founded in 2022, Upp is operating in the plant-based protein market, which has grown in popularity due to heightened concerns about the environmental impact of the meat industry.

The Shropshire-based company is focused on both improving the efficiency of broccoli harvesting and upcycling the end product into sustainable protein products.

Upp provides automated farming equipment armed with 3D cameras that use machine learning to identify broccoli crops that are ready for harvest. Once the head of the brocolli is delivered to market, Upp turns its attention to the stem of the plant, which is often discarded as food waste despite making up 80% of the broccoli plant.

In a process the company calls “uppcycling”, Upp transforms the discarded parts of the harvested broccoli into healthy protein products. The company is looking to provide an alternative plant-based protein to pea and soya, and claims using broccoli is less carbon-intensive.

“Upp is all about making the most of the crops that we already grow. Upcycled broccoli is much more than a more environmentally friendly alternative to pea-protein, it is packed with health-promoting nutrients, and fibre and is entirely natural,” said David Whitewood, CEO of Upp.

“In a future market of bioreactor and lab-grown alt-proteins, plant-based foods with good provenance will attract a premium like organic grass-fed beef does today.”

The pre-seed investment came courtesy of Elbow Beach Capital, an investment firm focused on sustainable decarbonisation tech.

“Food wastage, carbon-intensive protein production and labour shortages are three of the most significant issues in UK and international agriculture,” said Jon Pollock, CEO of Elbow Beach Capital.

“Upp is working to address all three. David and his team have achieved a great deal in a short period of time, and we’re excited to see the results of their pilots this year.”

Upp expects to begin commercial production late next year.

Earlier this week, the investment group Milltrust announced the launch of a £242m investment fund targeting meat alternative protein products, in association with Earth First Food Ventures.