Israeli start-up, Imagindairy Ltd, is milking new technology to leave the cow out of the dairy equation by creating true milk proteins that are reportedly indistinguishable from the real thing via a natural process of precision fermentation.
Imagindairy’s proprietary technology recreates nature-identical, animal-free versions of whey and casein proteins that can be used to produce dairy analogs. They have the flavour and texture as well as the functionality and nutritional value of their animal-based counterparts. This opens new opportunities to develop a full range of non-dairy products that perfectly mimic dairy versions yet contain no cholesterol, or GMO’s. They also are lactose-free, serving consumers with lactose intolerance or sensitivity. At the same time, the proprietary technology radically lowers the burden of dairy livestock on the environment, says the company.
“Our microflora-based production method was inspired by nature to recreate these proteins,” explains Eyal Afergan, PhD, co-founder and CEO of Imagindairy. The unique protein structure of dairy milk is what provides its characteristic texture, flavuor, and nutritional value. Whey is a key source of highly biologically available protein. Imagindairy’s animal-free dairy products boast the same complement of nutrients, from protein content to mineral composition, including calcium.
In response to growing awareness of animal welfare and the environmental impact of animal farming, supermarket shelves have become buoyant with alternative plant-based milk and dairy analogs. Yet in many respects, plant-based dairy alternatives fall short of meeting consumers’ sensory demands, according to the company.
“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,” says Afergan. “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.”
Imagindairy was co-founded by a multidisciplinary team of prominent experts in microbiology, computational systems, and biotechnology with the support of Israel-based The Kitchen FoodTech hub. The team, headed by Dr Arie Abo, PhD, a specialist in protein biochemistry, in collaboration with Tamir Tuller, PhD, a professor at Tel Aviv University, to advance emerging technology to overcome production bottlenecks and create a commercially viable, guilt-free milk product, without forfeiting quality or functionality.
Imagindairy kicked off operations at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, building its first applications lab in the home kitchen of one its employees, a single parent who needed a solution that would allow her to work on development while tending her homeschooled children.
Imagindairy’s unique technology is based on 15 years of research by Tuller, channeling evolutionary genomics for the advancement of high yield protein production. “We developed an advanced protein production platform that allows us to optimize every step in creating milk proteins,” notes Tuller, Imagindairy’s co-founder and CSO. “This allowed us to achieve the yield that is needed to achieve commercial production.”
Imagindairy’s technology can be readily integrated into existing dairy food production facilities. The start-up already raised US$1.5m in seed funding, led by The Kitchen FoodTech hub, with contributions from the Israeli Innovative Authority, CPT Capital, New Crop Capital, and Entrée Capital, and will soon enter its A-round funding series.