Dairy-funded incubator welcomes cow-free start-ups to mark ‘dramatic before and after’ in innovation

By Flora Southey contact

- Last updated on GMT

The incubator was launched to support start-ups, entrepreneurs and scientific projects working in the cellular agricultural spectrum for the dairy industry, from cell-based to fermentation and applied technologies. GettyImages/Chepko
The incubator was launched to support start-ups, entrepreneurs and scientific projects working in the cellular agricultural spectrum for the dairy industry, from cell-based to fermentation and applied technologies. GettyImages/Chepko

Related tags: Dairy, Alt dairy, precision fermentation

Global incubation programme Mylkcubator, launched by Spanish dairy major Pascual, is welcoming its first cohort of start-ups.

Launched mid-2021, the incubator programme is the result of a partnership between Pascual’s innovation arm, Pascual Innoventures, and food-tech accelerator Eatable Adventures.

Now, less than six months on, Mylkcubator is announcing its first cohort. The chosen start-ups come from the world over, from Spain to India, South Africa and the US.

Solving global challenges with ‘bold bets’

The incubator was launched to support start-ups, entrepreneurs and scientific projects working in the cellular agricultural spectrum for the dairy industry, from cell-based to fermentation and applied technologies.

By supporting cow-free dairy, Pascual is looking to develop technologies that have the potential to disrupt traditional operations, but that it believes are complementary in growth and in applications within the broad industry, Gabriel Torres Pascual, Director of Innovation at Pascual (third generation of the Pascual family) explained.

“Mylkcubator launches its first edition with the aim of marking a dramatic before and after in food innovation,” ​said Pascual Innoventures director Sejal Ravji.

“I think we are facing global challenges that can only be resolved thanks to bold bets like this; it’s a starting point for the development of the dairy products for the future. It’s a very ambitious project at many levels, including technological, but we’re partnering with leading experts, companies, and investors from all over the world who share our vision to make it happen.”

Meet the start-ups

The incubator’s first cohort includes Real Deal Milk, Zero Cow Factory, De Novo Dairy, and M2Factors.

Real Deal Milk, hailing from Pascual’s native Spain, is leveraging cellular agriculture – ‘swapping big animals for tiny cells’ – to make a dairy-equivalent product.

The start-up is modifying microbes to produce casein and whey via precision fermentation. “Yeast cells are given the genetic recipe for these proteins and off they go, acting as mini protein building machines to generate the proteins,” ​the start-up explained.

“With the manufacture of casein and whey mastered, the gates to the dairy industry are open.”

India-based Zero Cow Factory is another member of Mylkcubator’s first cohort. The start-up is producing India’s first milk and milk products made from microbial fermentation. It claims to also be developing the world’s first A2 milk protein in this way.

Zero Cow Factory’s cow-free products use 98% less water, 65% less energy, and are responsible for 84% less CO2 than its conventional counterpart.

Over in South Africa, De Novo Dairy is also joining the cohort. The start-up is similarly leveraging precision fermentation technology to produce animal-free dairy products that provide the same sensory experience and nutrition as traditional dairy.

And US-based M2Factors, a subsidiary of 108Labs, is working to reduce the cost of cell-cultured dairy production.

Collaboration

According to Pascual Innoventures, ‘renowned’ research hubs have already expressed their willingness to collaborate with some of the start-ups in the development of their research.

In addition, funds including Blue Horizon, Lever VC, Unovis and Ninepointfive have agreed to monitor Mylkcubator’s technological developments to advise the start-ups and look for future collaboration opportunities.

“Pascual Innoventures, Eatable Adventures and the four VCs that joined the program as partners, Blue Horizon, Lever VC, Unovis and Ninepointfive, will evaluate the investment in the start-ups after the demo day at the end of the incubation program,”​ CEO of Eatable Ventures José Luis Cabeñero told this publication.

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