Science

De Novo Dairy milks new Cult Food Science investment into scaling precision fermentation dairy

28 Feb 2022 — Cult Food Science Corp has completed an early-stage investment in Africa’s first precision fermentation company producing alternative dairy. Based in Cape Town, South Africa, De Novo Dairy is focused on bringing cow-free products to market, including ice cream, nutritious creamy yogurt and stretchy melty cheese. 

Precision fermentation-based dairy has been gaining traction over this last year as an alternative food touted as offsetting the emissions output from the traditional milk industry.

“Cult Food Science is an investment platform focused on cell-based foods and technology. We do not treat it as ‘just another biotechnology investment,’ but as a way we can shift our food system to be truly sustainable and sufficiently productive as a society,” Cult Food Science president, Lejjy Gafour, tells FoodIngredientsFirst.

Cult Food Science has a public listing on the Canadian Stock Exchange. 

“Through Cult Food Science, people can support the development of the most innovative start-ups, private and early-stage cultivated meat, cultured dairy and cell-based food companies around the world,” Gafour highlights.

De Novo products are designed to mimic the familiar sensory experience of traditional dairy.“Our portfolio companies are working on multiple products, which include milk, seafood, honey, collagen, beef and more. But I like to highlight that each of these categories has very large possibilities. Think of the number of everyday things that use collagen and gelatin, for example. This technology does not only support foodbut candies, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and more.”

Identical to cow milk
Milk proteins are largely associated with the physicochemical functionalities, taste and texture of traditional dairy. Based on these proteins, De Novo’s products are designed to provide the familiar sensory experience of cow-based dairy, as well as the same nutritional benefits – but in a more ethical, sustainable and efficient manner.

De Novo’s product pipeline is marketed as devoid of factory farming, lactose, hormones or antibiotics.

“It really is inspiring to see all the international support De Novo Dairy has been receiving for our mission to improve human nutrition while removing animals from the food chain. Having Cult Food Science on our side has definitely taken it to the next level, and we look forward to what we will achieve together in the coming years,” comments Jean Louwrens, CEO of De Novo.

De Novo produces recombinant milk proteins through fermentation, which are pegged as identical to those found in cow’s milk. These compounds are seamlessly integrated into animal-free dairy products at a commercial scale, the company claims.

Highlighting that 57% of all food-related emissions resulting from meat and dairy production, the company aims to advance a sustainable and creative solution to the global greenhouse gas (GHG) problem. 

Making moves in alt-milk
Cult Food Science joins other notable capital allocators, who have increasingly narrowed their focus on the alternative dairy space this past year.

For instance, Spanish dairy specialist Pascual recently launched the first global incubation program for cell-based milk in a program called Mylkcubator. Its goal is to identify those start-ups that can create cell-based milk with at least the same nutritional value of traditional milk “if not superior.”

In other big moves, TurtleTree recently landed US$30 million to scale the production of its cell-based lactoferrin and human milk oligosaccharides, in what is tipped as one of the largest investment rounds to date in Asia’s cell-based food sector.

Elsewhere, US-based start-up Biomilq specializes in mammary cell-cultured human breast milk, which can produce more than 2,500 components in human breast milk.

“What you will see is as companies release their innovations to market, they will be covering multiple products and formats as time goes on,” envisions Gafour.

“What will be magnificent is not simply that you will be able to go down to your local grocery store and buy a bottle of cell-based milk, but that the farm where it was produced is just at the end of your block – and not hundreds of kilometers away.”

Next to cell-based cultivation, precision fermentation is opening new doors for novel alt-dairy products including Fooditive’s new vegan casein, Those Vegan Cowboys’ vegan cheese and Eden Brew’s cowless milk.

“Finding ways to convert long standing industries that are harmful to animals and the environment into a sustainable alternative is the wave of the future and we at Cult are doing what we can to sponsor this shift through our investments,” concludes Gafour.

By Benjamin Ferrer


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