Sustainable skim: making dairy lactose-free, sans cows
Remilk produces artificially-engineered dairy milk in a lab, that has zero cholesterol, lactose, hormones or antibiotics yet still tastes like milk, all without the cows
Raised: $11.3 million in Series A
Founders: Aviv Wolff and Ori Cohavi
Oat milk has become the newest fad, and alternative plant-based milk options are on the rise. Milk alternatives are booming, and the industry has been experiencing double-digit growth as people are becoming more concerned with the needs for sustainable food production. However, Remilk, an Israeli foodtech startup, doesn’t want to simply replace milk, but aims to make it better. The company has engineered a way to produce milk in a laboratory, by extracting a milk protein from cows.
“We develop multiple processes to produce dairy products, from liquid milk to cheese, ice cream, or any imaginable dairy product by producing chemically-identical milk products. It’s real dairy, but isn’t a soy or a plant-based alternative. We use microbial fermentation, engineering specific species of microbes, and introduce them to specific genes that encode for the production of the milk proteins,” Remilk CEO Aviv Wolff told CTech in an interview.
Remilk co-founder and CEO Aviv Wolff. Photo: Tal Zelicovitch
“Each gene in the cow’s genome encodes for a different protein, and is kind of like an instruction book of how we can produce each molecule later in the lab. We copy that gene and reproduce it, so we don’t need to use an entire cow,” he said.
Remilk’s “milk” is nearly identical to regular milk, but is engineered without any lactose, cholesterol, growth hormones, or antibiotics. “It’s like regular milk with all the upsides but without the downsides,” Wolff said, noting that some 65% of the global population is lactose intolerant or has a reduced ability to digest lactose. Although Remilk’s product does not contain harmful additives, it remains unclear whether it is suitable for consumption by those allergic to dairy-byproducts.
Wolff noted the food crisis as one reason behind the company’s urgency to market its products. Some worrying factors he mentioned were the growing world population, the shortage of resources such as land and water, and how his company was searching for a long term and sustainable solution. “Producing a single gallon of milk uses up to 2,000 gallons of water. The existing dairy production system requires a lot of greenhouse emissions, generates a lot of waste, and consumes a vast amount of resources. Along with the growing global population, in 20 years from now the world will consume even more food, and more dairy products, so we need to come up with a sustainable solution if we want to continue drinking milk and eating dairy products in the future.”
Remilk’s process only requires 1% of land consumption compared to traditional dairy manufacturing, and also cuts down on harmful greenhouse emissions and water consumption.
Lab technician Maya Danino holds up Remilk's alternative milk. Photo: Tal Zelicovitch
Solving a problem
Currently, the company is in talks to commercialize its products, and is working with some leading dairy manufacturers. It completed a Series A round in October 2020, raising $11.3. Some of its investors include Israeli dairy-maker Tnuva and German-producer Hochland, as well as venture capital groups OurCrowd, Fresh.Fund, CPT capital, Tempo Ventures, and others.
The duo, Wolff and co-founder Ori Cochavi, who has a background in synthetic biology, started the company to solve the dairy issue, although it took them some time to come up with an exact solution.
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“We’re here to build the largest dairy company in the world. We’re not interested in building a premium niche product just for vegans. Our dream is to be the solution for the entire planet, while producing dairy more efficiently and saving resources. We want to reintroduce something people already know and love, but make it better.”