Why a milk major is launching the ‘world’s first’ incubator for cell-based dairy

By Flora Southey contact

- Last updated on GMT

Mylkcubator aligns with Pascual's 'innovative spirit', says Gabriel Torres Pascual. GettyImages/olhakozachenko
Mylkcubator aligns with Pascual's 'innovative spirit', says Gabriel Torres Pascual. GettyImages/olhakozachenko

Related tags: Dairy, precision fermentation, cellular agriculture

Spanish dairy company Pascual has launched a global incubation programme for cellular agriculture technologies. Cow-free dairy can both disrupt and complement traditional operations, Gabriel Torres Pascual tells FoodNavigator.

Aptly named Mylkcubator, the incubation programme is the result of a partnership between Pascual’s innovation arm, Pascual Innoventures, and food-tech accelerator Eatable Adventures.

The Mylkcubator will host a cohort of 10 start-ups, entrepreneurs, and scientific projects working in the cellular agriculture spectrum for the dairy industry, covering cell-based, fermentation based, and applied technologies.

For Gabriel Torres Pascual, director of Pascual Innoventures and third generation of the Pascual family, the initiative aligns with the company’s ‘innovative spirit’.

“The entrepreneurial, innovative spirit is in our genes, it comes from the attitude that my grandfather instilled in us of being nonconformist, dreaming big and daring to take big risks…

“This is how Pascual Innoventures was born with a long-term vision and the purpose of giving the best for the future of food. We will work hand in hand with start-ups that allows us to move into the future.”

Big Dairy invests in cow-free

Pascual hints at an interesting point: that the future of dairy may not continue to rely so heavily on conventional methods.  

Such a suggestion is not new. Think tank RethinkX has previously predicted precision fermentation’s  major disruption of conventional dairy. According to the research institute, industrial cattle farming, and all livestock farming, will be obsolete by 2035. Precision fermentation, it believes, is going to ‘outperform the cow’.

What is new is Pascual’s decision, as a traditional dairy player, to invest in such technologies. The company is backing a sector that could threaten conventional dairy’s stronghold in the food and beverage industry.

The director of Pascual Innoventures agreed cellular agriculture has the potential to disrupt conventional dairy. However, it can also complement traditional production, he told FoodNavigator.

“By supporting cow-free dairy, Pascual looks to help develop technology that…has the potential to disrupt traditional operations; but that we believe are complementary in growth and in applications within the broad industry.

“Pascual wants to take responsibility in the future of dairy, and thus it’s Pascual’s responsibility to advance and create these types of programmes that foster innovation.”

Ultimately, industry sees ‘large potential’ in cow-free technologies. And not just within the food industry. Other industries can also utilise dairy proteins within their value chain, the innovation chief elaborated.

“Pascual is not bold enough to make…predictions [such as dairy being overtaken by cell-based dairy in the future], but sees growth and technology within precision fermentation that add to society as a whole.”

First cohort incoming

Mylkcubator launched a call for applications in May 2021. The incubator’s first cohort will be selected this month, before they enter the ‘incubation phase’ from July to November.

Successful applicants will benefit from meeting professional from Pascual’s team and partner’s network, and gain access to European R&D technologies to develop prototypes, pilot testing, and scaling.

In December 2021, the cohort will pitch to business angels, entrepreneurs, corporations and venture capital funds.

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