GLOBAL – Pascual Innoventures, born in 2021 to promote innovative initiatives that solve food problems with the help of technology, has made its first major investment in two precision-fermentation dairy startups.

South Africa’s De Novo Dairy and India’s Zero Cow Factory have received around €1m (US$1.02m) from Pascual Innoventures, becoming the first funding recipients of the program.

The invetment platform has also selected a quintet of companies for the second edition of the startup accelerator program.

The startups specialize in cellular agriculture, precision fermentation technologies and associated product development, a segment gaining more weight in the dairy sector.

De Novo Dairy majors in lactoferrin production through precision fermentation. Zero Cow Factory produces casein using bioengineering and microbial fermentation.

These technologies, capable of producing nutrients and ingredients for the industry through microorganisms, add to and complement the traditional industry helping players like Pascual to move towards more sustainable, efficient, and healthy mixed production models.

Announcing its investment in the two startups, Pascual Innoventures said cell agriculture and precision fermentation are ‘starting to demonstrate industrial viability’ with startups valued at more than US$5.3m, citing Dealroom data.

“Together with De Novo Dairy, we are going to explore the production of Lactoferrin, a high-value protein, essential in the development of babies and strengthener of the immune system. Hand in hand with Zero Cow, we will work on the synthesis of casein, a milk protein that is vital to achieving a good flavor and texture in cheeses or yogurts of non-animal origin,” explained Gabriel Torres, director of Pascual Innoventures.

Both startups were also part of the first edition of Mylkcubator, the incubation program launched a year ago by the venture capital division of the dairy company and Eatable Adventures.

A new cohort of startups has been announced for the second edition of the program, which has been expanded to include molecular farming projects, i.e., such that produce proteins using plant cells instead of animal ones.

They include Maolac, PFx Biotech, Miruku, ERGO Bioscience and Nutropy, from Israel, Portugal, Netherlands, Argentina, and France, respectively.

Maolac specializes in the research of biofunctional ingredients, while PFx Biotech focuses on commercializing bioactive and functional human milk proteins.

Miruku is a leader in molecular agriculture, whereas ERGO Bioscience develops complex animal proteins. 

Nutropy focuses on production of dairy ingredients by feeding the yeast with sugars, minerals, and vitamins.

Torres explained that the new cohorts will be assessed after studying the feasibility of their projects as well as the maturity point of both the companies and the technologies on which the startups are working.

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