Austrian start-up plans dairy disruption via precision fermentation-derived cheeses

By Oliver Morrison

- Last updated on GMT

Image: Getty/yulka3ice
Image: Getty/yulka3ice

Related tags Fermentation Cheese Dairy alternatives

Vienna’s Fermify claims its digitised production platform delivers casein proteins with the same superior functional properties and nutritional profile of real cheese and allows producers to produce cow-free cheese at scale.

After raising an undisclosed amount in pre-seed funding, Fermify aims to develop a fully automated platform to produce casein proteins to supply to CPG companies and dairy producers.

The company said its fermentation process will deliver cultivated casein proteins with the same functional properties and nutritional profile of real cheese. This will enable its customers to pursue in-house production of cow-free cheese.

It plans to launch an initial prototype this summer, before beginning its first collaborations in the autumn. It targets to sell the first units by mid-2023.

Fermify was founded in November 2021 by CEO Eva Sommer, who previously co-founded cultivated fat firm Peace of Meat which was acquired by MeaTech 3D.

“We have programmed our first host organism which can express all the four casein types [alpha 1, alpha 2, beta, kappa],”​ Sommer told FoodNavigator, adding that the start-up is including molecular modelling and simulations into its R&D to better understand the 3D network of cheese. “We believe that a combination of wet lab experiments and in situ experiments will show us how we can produce fermentation-derived cheeses with the same organoleptic experience as the products we are used to,”​ she revealed. The technology, claimed Sommer, “is very easy to scale because we aim to enable a decentralized way to produce casein”.

Fermify’s production platform has a bioreactor volume of 2,000 litres, and the company aims to produce 18 tonnes of casein per annum. In terms of customers, it is mainly targeting CPG companies and dairy producers who want to produce casein in house, we were told.

“Nevertheless, to enable a consequent disruption of the cow as a protein producer, we want to be as inclusive as possible,”​ explained the CEO. “In particular, vegan cheese companies are interested in our platform and some have contacted us to fill the sensory bottlenecks of their products. We are already in discussion with several potential collaboration partners who will start their R&D with our casein products this year in autumn.”

’I love those vegan cheeses and will give up conventional cheese,’ said nobody ever

Fermify has brought together a team of 12 scientists and engineers with “unique knowledge in bioprocess engineering, molecular biology, process digitalization and food science​”.

The seed funding will help it to expand its team, to scale its technology and to accelerate the development of the first prototype. “By summer 2022, we want to enjoy our precision fermentation-derived cheeses with Austrian wine together with our team and new partners,”​ said Sommer. “’I love those vegan cheeses and will give up conventional cheese’ is something nobody ever said, but with the help of Fermify's casein production platform there is a way to satisfy the world's appetite for cheese without harming animals.”

The pre-seed funding was led by Übermorgen Ventures and Backbone Ventures, with other investors including the vegan fund Kale United and the Viennese early stage investor Push Ventures.

“While numerous plant-based alternatives for meat and milk are already on the market, there are very few cheese-alternatives that can live up to the eating experience of cheese made from mammal milk,”​ said Adrian Bührer, Managing Partner at Übermorgen Ventures.

“In order to reach the mass market, however, innovation is needed. Fermify’s approach not only matches conventional cheese in terms of taste and texture, it is also less carbon-intensive and can be healthier to consume."

Related topics R&D Cheese