SEOUL -- South Korea's third-largest conglomerate SK Group expanded its partnership with China's Joyvio Group to tap alternative food markets in China and other countries and invest in promising food-tech firms with innovative technologies. Concerns over animal welfare and food security spurred the global demand for meat alternatives.
SK Inc., an investment-oriented holding company of SK Group, said it would create an alternative food investment fund worth about 100 billion won ($86 million) with Joyvio and invest in alternative protein manufacturing such as plant-based meals and protein fermentation.
Plant-based meats imitate meat and are most commonly made from soy, peas, beans, mushrooms, mung beans, or wheat gluten. Biomass fermentation uses high-protein content and the rapid growth of microorganisms to efficiently make large amounts of protein-rich food.
With a Korean private equity fund in 2019, SK Inc. invested about 220 billion won in Joyvio, which is the largest producer of blueberries and kiwis in China. China's tech-specialized fund operator Z-Park River Capital (ZRC) would manage the sustainable food and consumption fund that drew investors including Chinese food companies and the Chongqing local government.
SK Inc. and Joyvio will jointly push for business cooperation with food tech companies such as vertical farming, which is the practice of growing crops in vertically stacked layers and often incorporates controlled-environment agriculture, which aims to optimize plant growth, and soilless farming techniques such as hydroponics, aquaponics, and aeroponics.
SK Inc. said it would target the Asian alternative food market through partnerships with leading Asian food companies and investors. "The sustainable future food market is a promising field that is expected to yield profound added value in the future and also has great environmental value," SK Inc.'s green Investment center head Kim Moo-hwan said in a statement on July 26.
SK Inc. invested about 54 billion won in Perfect Day, a U.S. protein fermentation company, in 2020 and about 29 billion won in Nature's Find in 2021 that has developed an alternative protein source rich in nutrients using microorganisms and self-fermentation technology found in the Yellowstone National Park. SK Inc. would seek to invest in Meatless Farm, a British alternative meat production company.
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