From cow-free dairy to meat-free beef, these startups are changing the way we think about food

When talking about fermentation you are probably thinking: kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha or beer, but soon enough your first associations might be silk, dairy or even meat. Earlier this month, we wrote about the use of fermentation in the production of the world’s first necktie made from artificial spider silk and now we are brining you three food tech startups that want to disrupt the supply chain of daily staples like milk, beef and eggs.

How exactly, you ask—using genetically modified yeast and age-old fermentation techniques. First, food scientists identify the desired genes in a plant or animal and then insert them into a host, in this case the yeast. After feeding it sugar to stimulate the fermentation process, the yeast is then filtered off while the desired substance is extrapolated and further mixed with other nutrients. The end result is a product that has the same chemical composition as its naturally occurring equivalent, yet requires considerably less resources.

Fermentation Tech

Perfect Day
Motivated by their longing for cheese, Perumal Gandhi and Ryan Pandaya who were experimenting with veganism for ethical and environmental reasons at the time, decided to set on a quest to recreate cow’s milk without the cows. They obtained and 3D-printed the cow’s DNA sequence and inserted it into a specific location of the yeast—which they called Buttercup—sourced from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The yeast ferments sugar to make real milk proteins (casein and whey) which are then combined with plant-based sugars, fats and nutrients. The end result requires 91 percent less land, 98 percent less water and 65 percent less energy and is devoid of hormones, cholesterol or lactose. Not to mention that given its identical chemical composition to traditional milk, it can be turned into any dairy product, so brace yourself for a truly creamy experience without the moral dilemma.

Impossible Foods
Unlike other meat substitutes, Impossible Foods doesn't consider vegans and vegetarians as their target customers. Instead, they want to conquer the hearts of meat lovers. Made primarily from wheat, potatoes and coconut oil, the faux-beef’s secret ingredient is heme. This iron-rich compound can be found in roots of nitrogen-fixing plants. Given that harvesting those plants would require time and resources, increasing the company’s eco footprint, Patrick Brown, Impossible Foods founder and CEO, turned to fermentation to create the compound in the lab.

Clara Foods
While the global demand for eggs is rising, producing pressure on hatcheries to concentrate more on efficacy than environment or animal welfare, there is an increasing public distaste for such practices. Clara Foods aims to elevate this problem by taking the chicken out of the equation completely, while matching the taste, nutritional value and unique culinary properties of eggs by producing the whites with modified yeast. Positioning itself in the B2B space, Clara Foods is currently targeting large corporations, including pasta and condiments brands, so it may take a while before you can actually make an omelette from lab-grown whites.

Perfect Day Impossible Foods | Clara Foods

When talking about fermentation you are probably thinking: kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha or beer, but soon enough your first associations might be silk, dairy or even meat. Earlier this month, we wrote about the use of fermentation in the production of the world’s first necktie made from artificial spider silk and now we are brining you three food tech startups that want to disrupt the supply chain of daily staples like milk, beef and eggs.

How exactly, you ask—using genetically modified yeast and age-old fermentation techniques. First, food scientists identify the desired genes in a plant or animal and then insert them into a host, in this case the yeast. After feeding it sugar to stimulate the fermentation process, the yeast is then filtered off while the desired substance is extrapolated and further mixed with other nutrients. The end result is a product that has the same chemical composition as its naturally occurring equivalent, yet requires considerably less resources.