Israeli Precision Fermentation Startup Imagindairy Is ‘Milking New Technology To Leave Cows Out’

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Imagindairy is the latest to join the animal-free dairy movement, tapping into precision fermentation technology to create “true milk proteins that are indistinguishable from the real thing”. Based out of Tel Aviv, the food tech says through “milking new technology”, it has recreated whey and casein without the cow, and these animal-free proteins can be incorporated into a range of dairy alternatives, from cheese to yoghurt. 

Imagindairy says its proprietary technology based on precision fermentation enables the creation of “nature-identical” versions of whey and casein, two real dairy proteins that can be used to make a number of animal-free alternatives. The startup says their proteins are non-GMO, contain no cholesterol and are lactose-free, yet deliver the same texture, nutritional value and flavour of its real cow-based counterparts. 

Compared to traditional animal agriculture production methods, Imagindairy’s process “radically lowers” the burden on the environment. It has yet to provide details on how much of an emissions-reduction its precision fermentation method brings, but other food techs using similar technologies have reported a significantly lowered footprint. 

Animal-free dairy pioneer Perfect Day, for instance, recently released its life-cycle assessment, which showed a greenhouse gas reduction of at least 85% and up to 97% compared to conventionally farmed dairy. 

Our vision was to deliver an animal-free version of the primary dairy proteins — whey and casein — that can allow product makers to match real dairy products.

Dr. Eyal Afergan, Co-Founder & CEO, Imagindairy
Imagindairy team (Image: Imagindairy)

Tel Aviv-based Imagindairy uses a microflora-based production method that it describes as “inspired by nature”. It says that its animal-free dairy products will boast the same nutritional composition as its conventional counterparts, from its protein content to mineral values, including calcium

Existing plant-based products on the market, according to Imagindairy, haven’t yet managed to convince hardcore milk and cheese lovers who crave the texture, sensorial qualities and taste of the real deal.

“Our vision was to deliver an animal-free version of the primary dairy proteins — whey and casein — that can allow product makers to match real dairy products in terms of protein concentration, nutrient profile, and the full sensory experiences of the animal-derived versions,” said Dr. Eyal Afergan, co-founder and CEO of the startup. 

“I look forward to being able to give my kids such treats as a cup of nutritious, tasty milk or creamy yogurt without the hard impact on animals or on the environment they must inherit.”

Afergan founded Imagindairy with Tel Aviv University Professor Tamir Tuller during the height of Covid-19, a time when consumer awareness was quickly growing over the dangers and volatility of the animal supply chain, as well as the environmental and health concerns related to animal food production. 

Imagindairy says its animal-free whey and casein proteins can be used to create a number of dairy analogues. (Image: iStock)

We developed an advanced protein production platform that allows us to optimise every step in creating milk proteins.

Professor Tamir Tuller, Co-Founder & CSO, Imagindairy

Backed by Professor Tuller’s 15-year experience and research in the field of evolutionary genomics, Imaginedairy –  whose technology is led by protein biochemistry specialist Dr. Arie Abo – says its production method can be integrated into existing dairy processing facilities, which shortens time to market and enables high production yields

“We developed an advanced protein production platform that allows us to optimise every step in creating milk proteins,” explained CSO and co-founder Professor Tuller. “This allowed us to achieve the yield that is needed to achieve commercial production.”

So far, the company is fuelled by US$1.5 million in seed funding from backers such as the Israeli Innovative Authority, Kitchen FoodTech Hub and alternative protein VCs including CPT Capital and New Crop Capital. As it scales up, Imagindairy revealed that it will “soon enter” another round of funding for its Series A. 

Other players in also using precision fermentation to create animal-free dairy products include fellow Tel Aviv startup Remilk, U.S. and Australia-based Change Foods, Formo headquartered in Berlin, British firm Better Dairy and Ghent-based Those Vegan Cowboys, among others in the growing list. 


Lead image courtesy of iStock.


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