How FÆRM Defied the Impossible to Make Plant-Based Cheese Just Like Dairy
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Danish food tech startup FÆRM, says it has developed a patented cheesemaking technology that mimics traditional dairy fermentation using rennet and cultures such as lactic acid bacteria.
FÆRM makes its cheese by fermenting legume-based plant matrices that it turns into cheese without using additives, colorants, or flavorings. Its tech has made soy milk coagulate like cow’s milk. The process is so unique that the company, which was founded in 2020 by Andrea Donau, Mikkel Dupont, and Anna Gundorph, was able to write a patent on it.
Doing the impossible
“In the beginning, we had a lot of experts telling us that what we wanted to do with enzymes and plant proteins was impossible,” Donau told Dairy Reporter.
“Through research, stubbornness, and countless tests, we achieved the impossible: Getting plants to go through the same tailored process as traditional cheese,” FÆRM says on its website. “Turning them from a liquid plant drink into solid, diverse, and complex deliciousness. Thanks to enzymes and bacteria.”
FÆRM has developed three clean-label, coconut oil-free plant-based cheeses using the tech, including cream cheese, brie, and fresh mozzarella.
“Our first goal is to further develop our technology and get even firmer and bouncier curds,” Donau told Dairy Reporter.
Donau says the technology allows for all kinds of cheesemaking, but firmer curds would make hard cheeses more difficult.
“Which brings me to our second goal,” which Donau says is commercializing the company’s plant-based cheese technology, “and hitting the market in combination with a production partner.”
Although FÆRM’s fermentation technology has thus far only been applied to soy, the company says it will work with other legumes to develop soy-free products. According to the company, legumes are more sustainable ingredients than nuts and also contain complex proteins that give the products added nutritional value.
‘Centuries of discoveries’
“Cheese is a long, gentle process that allows the proteins to work together to go from a liquid milk to a nice firm blob that can do all the magic tricks we know and love from cheese,” According to FÆRM. “And centuries of discoveries have found how the sugars in milk can be cultured to develop complex flavors and experiences. We want to give that experience to everyone, just without the dairy.”
FÆRM says its traditional fermentation methods can be implemented in existing dairy plants without specific equipment, making scaling up production feasible without significant investments in assets. “With our approach, we have created a process for a plant-based product that is so unique, we were able to write a patent on it,” the company says.
Last September, FÆRM joined the Venture Lab accelerator at the BioInnovation Institute in Cohort 4 to help the startup scale its process, conduct further research, and find commercial partners to bring its unique cheeses to market. FÆRM was a 2021 finalist at the SDG Tech Awards, which discover, showcase, and promote sustainable tech innovations from startups, SMEs, and corporations.