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Synthetic Bio Milk Company Gains $13M in Seed Funds

Milk splashing

(Myriams-Fotos, Pixabay.

17 Nov. 2021. A start-up enterprise creating milk and dairy products with proteins derived from engineered microorganisms is raising $13 million in seed funds. Imagindairy Ltd. in Tel Aviv, Israel is based on research in synthetic biology by its co-founder and chief scientist Tamir Tuller, professor of biomedical engineering at Tel Aviv University.

Imagindairy says it developed a process for producing milk and dairy products that are indistinguishable from the original animal-based products. The company’s technology creates whey and casein proteins found in dairy products from genetically engineered plant microorganisms, in a process it calls precision fermentation. Imagindairy says the process generates these protein components at a scale and quality for producing milk and dairy products with identical taste, texture, and nutritional value as those made from cows. The company says precision fermentation also makes it possible to produce milk and dairy products for consumers needing low cholesterol or are lactose sensitive.

The company says its precision fermentation process is up to 20 times more efficient than animals in converting inputs such as feed into milk proteins. Moreover, the process is more environmentally friendly than conventional dairy farm agriculture, releasing fewer greenhouse gases and without harm to animals or surrounding ecosystems.

Imagindairy says it uses computational biology techniques to engineer the plant microorganisms in its precision fermentation process. Tuller’s research at Tel Aviv University studies computational models of gene expression, to construct algorithms for predicting and simulating different stages of gene expression. Tuller’s lab also designs methods for engineered gene expression used in biotechnology. Imagindairy says Tuller and co-founder Arie Abo, now the company’s chief technology officer, developed the company’s technology.

Collaborating with current dairy producers

“The market is eager to develop new dairy analogs based on our animal-free proteins,” says Imagindairy co-founder and CEO Eyal Afergan in a company statement released through Cision. “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 flavor and experience that is more aligned to their values, it becomes easy.”

Imagindairy is raising $13 million in seed funds from a group led by MoreVC, a venture capital investor specializing in early-stage Israeli technology companies. Joining the round are Strauss Group, Entrée Capital, S2G Ventures, Collaborative Fund, New Climate Ventures, Green Circle Foodtech Ventures, Emerald Technology Ventures, and Pierre Besnainou. Imagindairy also raised $1.5 million in pre-seed funds in June 2021, when the company began operations.

The company says it’s collaborating with dairy companies, to offer more sustainable sources of dairy proteins. “Imagindairy’s innovative technology,” notes MoreVC partner Glen Schwaber, “allows dairy companies to develop new products or reformulate existing products, without involving animals and with a dramatic reduction in carbon-footprint. They have the technology to produce the dairy products of the future that consumers want today.”

Imagindairy is not alone in developing animal-free milk products. Science & Enterprise reported in January 2020 that TurtleTree Labs, based in Singapore, raised seed funds to advance its process for producing milk directly from mammary cells in the lab, but without crops, animals, or farms.

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