Imagindairy has developed a new technological approach to produce dairy proteins, without the cow. The company leverages natural precision fermentation to create ‘true milk proteins’ that are ‘indistinguishable’ from animal-based dairy.
Imagindairy’s proprietary technology, based on a systems and synthetic biology platform, allows manufacturers to offer cow-free, sustainable milk and dairy products with all the nutritional values of dairy milk. And it hopes to bring these ingredients to market in the space of a few short years, Dr Eyal Afergan, co-founder and CEO of Imagindairy, told FoodNavigtator.
“We are targeting 2023 for launching our first product,” he revealed. “The funds will be used to increase the company team, scale up processes and R&D efforts toward launching our first product.”
Afergan is confident that regulatory barriers will not disrupt this timescale. “Precision fermentation has been used for the last 40 years in the food industry to produce food enzymes, 95% of the global dairy industry use the rennet enzyme which produced in the same way to produce cheese. Furthermore, Perfect day paved the way by approving their first animal free milk protein by the FDA last year. Thus, the regulatory pathway is very clear and defined.”
Backing Imagindairy are investors MoreVC, a leading seed stage investor in Israel managing $275M across three funds. Also joining this round: Strauss Group, Entrée Capital, S2G Ventures; Collaborative Fund, New Climate Ventures, Green Circle Foodtech Ventures; Emerald Technology Ventures and Pierre Besnainou.
A focus on B2B markets
Afergan noted the growing demand for products that are more sustainable alternatives to traditional animal agriculture. He believes that precision fermentation technology will be an important unlock for the sector because it delivers on both the functionality and nutrition of dairy.
“The market is eager to develop new dairy analogs based on our animal-free proteins. Once we reach commercialization, more consumers will be able to enjoy eating animal-free dairy products. It’s hard for people to make big changes, especially when it comes to the foods they enjoy, but when there’s an alternative with the same flavour and experience that is more aligned to their values, it becomes easy.”
Imagindairy is currently collaborating with dairy companies, offering a complete range of dairy-free proteins. “Our go to market strategy is B2B. We believe that the best way to move forward and introducing the world animal free products is through strategic collaboration with dairy branded companies,” Afergan told us.
“Imagindairy’s innovative technology allows dairy companies to develop new products or reformulate existing products, without involving animals and with a dramatic reduction in carbon-footprint,” added Glen Schwaber, MoreVC partner. “They have the technology to produce the dairy products of the future that consumers want today. We are incredibly impressed with the expert team and their strong R&D and scale-up capabilities.”
Feeding microbes, not cows
For Entrée Capital, Imagindairy’s ‘deep tech’ underscores the investment rational.
“We evaluated Imagindairy’s proprietary, deep-tech platform and immediately recognized its huge potential,” explained Eran Bielski, General Partner at Entrée Capital. “Imagindairy successfully addresses the biggest limitation of precision fermentation technology—cost effective animal-free milk protein production.”
Imagindairy’s technology is based on 15 years of research led by its co-founder and CSO, Tamir Tuller, PhD, a professor at Tel Aviv University.
The company feeds microorganisms instead of cows, and the select microorganisms the company employs are up to 20 times more efficient than cows at converting feed into food. This offers food system resilience, allows for ‘complete sustainability’, and promotes animal welfare, Imagindairy said. It also eliminates the greenhouse gas emissions produced by dairy cows. “The result: highly functional milk proteins that taste great and have the same texture, flavour, and nutritional value as milk from cows,” the company said.
Offering solutions to these big picture questions means Imagindairy ‘ticks all the right boxes’, according to Eyal Shimoni, CTO for Strauss Group. “This is innovative technology that can help solve world hunger in our growing population; it’s a solution that is green and animal-free. We at Strauss group, one of the leading dairy companies in Israel, identified the potential in this start-up in the early stages and have confidence in its managers to help lead the alt-protein revolution toward a better, more sustainable future.”