Tyson's VC arm invests in Clear Labs food safety tech
- Tyson Ventures, the food company's funding arm, invested in food safety testing firm Clear Labs, according to Bloomberg. Financial details about the deal weren't disclosed.
- The company uses a robotic platform to detect pathogens such as salmonella and E. coli, and can get results in 24 hours compared to the standard three to five days.
- Reese Schroeder, managing director for Tyson Ventures, told Bloomberg this is the company's first investment in food safety, but that there will probably be more to come. "If all goes as planned, this will be in lab settings and help us do that better, faster and more accurately," Schroeder said.
Tyson Foods' venture firm is branching its investments out. The fund has put money into alternative meat and protein companies that could be the future for its core business. With this new investment, it's putting money into something that its present business — as well as all food manufacturers — is dealing with.
So far, Tyson Ventures has invested in lab-grown meat companies with Memphis Meats and last year bought a minority interest in Future Meat Technologies. Tyson also has a stake in plant-based company Beyond Meat.
But there are a number of reasons why Tyson would want to invest in Clear Labs. Chicken product recalls within the past year for possible contamination with rubber or plastic pieces caused headaches for the company, but Tyson also wants to avoid foodborne illness outbreaks caused by pathogens. Investing in a cutting-edge food safety testing firm is a good way to do that, especially one that is being relied upon by many in the industry. In October, the company told Food Dive it has signed up 90% of the U.S. poultry market, 85% of the pet food market and 50% of third-party service labs — and also significantly lowered testing costs and achieved 99.9% accuracy.
Clear Labs' automated food safety platform, called Clear Safety, performs pathogen profiling and analysis of in-plant operations. The company asserts its accuracy can limit false negatives and positives, which can cut recall risks, operational costs and holding time for food manufacturers. The technology also cuts down the result time by days — which could give Tyson an advantage over its competitors in gaining trust with consumers.
Clear Labs has raised $45 million since it was founded in 2014. The most recent infusion of $21 million in the fall is being used to further its next-generation sequencing to more quickly check food for salmonella and other pathogens.
Tyson Ventures indicated more plans to invest in food safety solutions to Bloomberg. This makes sense at a time when food companies are looking for faster and more accurate tests and more modern approaches to stay ahead of dangerous contamination. And developing a financial relationship with a leader in food safety technology can only pay dividends in the future — both through collaboration and future partnership opportunities.