Precision fermentation innovator Formo celebrates record funding round

By Oliver Morrison

- Last updated on GMT

Image: Formo
Image: Formo

Related tags Fermentation Formo LegenDairy

Berlin-based Formo is celebrating getting record funding from investors looking to capitalise on the growing market for environmentally friendly dairy alternatives.

The company, formerly called LegenDairy, uses precision fermentation to produce milk protein without the cow. Formo has announced that it has closed its Series A financing round led by EQT Ventures, with Elevat3 Capital and Lowercarbon Capital as co-leads. The funding raised by Formo amounts to $50M, a record for a European foodtech.

The start-up will use the new funding to construct its pilot plant, fast-track its commercial scale production, and grow the molecular biology and food science team. With the resulting increase in R&D capacity, Formo plans to expand its product portfolio to represent a wide variety of European dairy specialties such as mozzarella and ricotta, with techniques designed in collaboration with artisan cheesemakers.

The round also saw participation from Lionheart Ventures, Happiness Capital, and Albert Wenger. Additionally, existing investors Agronomics, CPT Capital, Good Seed Ventures, Grazia Equity, and M Ventures participated.

The startup claims it is Europe's first cellular agriculture company developing animal free dairy products using real, nature-identical milk proteins derived from precision fermentation. It was formed in 2019 ‘to create a more sustainable and ethical food system where change is not initiated through consumer sacrifice but rather through hedonistic products that are deliciously high-tech’.

Raffael Wohlgensinger, Co-Founder and CEO of Formo, said the funds makes the company ‘uniquely positioned to define the new gold standard of cheese’. “With our technology, we aspire to lead the paradigm shift towards a more sustainable and equitable food system for this planet,”​ he said. “To achieve our goal of a zerocarbon economy, we need to invest at least as much attention and resources into making our food system radically more sustainable as we are investing into clean energy.”

Formo domesticates microorganisms instead of cows, using precision fermentation to create nature-identical dairy products. It claims its cheeses have the same taste, texture, and functional properties as animal-derived cheeses, but come at a substantially lower cost for the environment, human health, and animal welfare. With microorganisms being up to 20 times more efficient than cows at converting feed into food, Formo claims it can already undercut consumers’ willingness to pay at commercial production scale.

Dr. Britta Winterberg, Co-Founder, and CSO of Formo said that company harnesses molecular processes to pioneer a radical transformation in our food systems. “For over 2 years we have been searching for a way to overcome the challenges of our broken food system on a molecular level,”​ Winterberg said. “Today, we are beyond excited to see our vision of a kinder, greener future come to life through our delicious cheeses as we prepare for our first product demonstration event in collaboration with Michelin-starred chef Ricky Saward”.

“We’re delighted to be giving further support to Formo, the European leader in precision fermentation. Their progress demonstrates our contention that the conventional dairy industry will soon be upended by novel technologies helping to reduce climate change and to improve human and animal health,” ​said Jim Mellon, Director of Agronomics, a UK-listed investment vehicle that targets innovative companies in alternative proteins with a focus on cellular agriculture.

Mellon, author of Moos Law, is one investor betting that alternative proteins including cultivated meat and seafood will change the global food industry entirely. Mellon has identified alternative proteins as the newest 'meta-theme' of our times.

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