Miruku replaces animals with plants to create milk proteins – TechCrunch

Using the molecular farming process of Miruku, a New Zealand-based food technology company, it programs plant cells into mini-factories to produce proteins such as fats and sugars, which are traditionally produced by animals.

The company was founded in 2020 by Amos Palfreyman, Ira Bing, Harjinder Singh and Oded Shoseyov, all with dairy or plant science experience. Alternative milk protein technology is currently being developed in Miruku’s laboratories and greenhouses with corporate and R&D partnerships to make it widely applicable in geographic areas.

The approach involves breeding and developing plant crops to turn their cells into milk proteins, CEO Palfreyman explained. This is in contrast to spatial competitors, which use techniques such as precision fermentation, which cooks dairy products in fermentation chambers, and animal cells outside the animal itself to produce the building blocks of dairy products in breeding chambers.

Miruku differentiates itself by breeding new plants that grow real dairy building blocks directly into the plants themselves with the energy of the sun. In this sense, the company produces proteins more efficiently than cows, thus eliminating the role of the cow in reducing its dependence on animal husbandry and the resulting water, soil and atmospheric damage.

“Our protein ingredients make dairy products that not only taste and smell like real dairy products, but are also nutritional equivalents of dairy products,” he added. “They help build and restore the body with the same amino acid building blocks your body uses after eating and digesting a great cheese sandwich, and they function as a real dairy product in making and baking delicious things like cheesecake or delicious pecorino cheese.”

One of the challenges in food technology is to create enough protein, raw materials, or scaffolding to increase the size of the company, and for Miruku, “the challenge is to program a plant to express mammalian proteins in a way that preserves their structure and function, in fact. quite a technical challenge. Palfreyman remarked.

He explained that scaling plants will be easy: once you create a plant that expresses the target proteins, it will plant the seeds to increase production on a scale, whether it’s a handful in the greenhouse or hundreds of thousands in the field.

Where this becomes a bit complicated, it is the design and cultivation of selected traits that often requires a trade-off between energy use and expression levels. However, Palfreyman believes that applying Miruku’s computational biology and techno-economic analyzes to model optimal expression levels will address this side of the scalability equation.

The company is still under development, but Palfreyman targets two to three years before Miruku will market its proteins. But sooner they will have prototypes and proof of concept. He expects the first product to be likely to be a partnership with an existing food company to provide a protein component that the food company will introduce.

Nevertheless, Palfreyman advertises Miruk as the first molecularly managed dairy business in the Asia Pacific region. He joins other companies around the world, such as Nobell Foods, a molecular dairy company, NotCo, Climax Foods and Perfect Day, which are working on animal-free technology to capture the more than $ 500 billion dairy market. We’ve seen several of them provide venture capital funding in the last six months:

  • Better Dairy, which makes cheese using a precision fermentation model, raised $ 22 million in February;
  • The EVERY Company, which uses plants to make eggs, grabbed $ 175 million in December;
  • Perfeggt, which also makes eggs from plants, announced $ 2.8 million in November and extended the seed cycle by $ 3.9 million this month; and
  • Stockheld Dreamery, which makes legume cheese, earned $ 20 million in September.

The founders of Miruk were self-financing for the first 18 months and now receive $ 2.4 million in seed funding. The investment was led by Movac and includes Better Bite Ventures, Ahimsa Investments and Aspire Fund.

This will allow the company to embark on “serious scaling” once it finds the right partners, according to Palfreyman, to help connect the company with customers and build on the milestones of the next round, which it says will take place in 2023.

The new capital will be used to recruit additional technology staff, build partnerships and accelerate its development programs. Miruku has already doubled its headcount this year, and Palfreyman expects similar growth every year.

Miruku spread early in the big food companies that work with Miruku to develop products together. It also launches development programs in various geographical areas, some of which are related to the environment and climate, while others are about product types and partnerships with producers, formulators and brands.

“It’s good to say we’re still an early-stage company, but it’s no less accurate to say we’re moving fast and gaining great appeal with strategic partners close to consumer markets,” Palfreyman added. “Innovation and growth necessitate access to capital, and although we have just closed our first institutional sphere, we expect growth as a result in the not-too-distant future.”

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