Genevieve Poblano / Digital Trends
Milking is a verb that means drawing milk from a cow or other animal, either manually or mechanically. Remilk apparently means making cheese, milk and various other dairy products in a laboratory using a patented process that mimics the properties of milk proteins without the need for cows or other livestock.
Of these two definitions, you almost certainly know the first much better. However, if the people at an Israeli cellular food company by that name – and the people who just put $ 11.3 million in funding – are right, you will become much more familiar with the second.
From clean meat to clean milk
Most people are now familiar with the dream of cellular “clean meat,” the idea of producing animal meat that does not require the actual killing of an animal. This is not the same mission as companies like Impossible Foods (manufacturer of the bleeding vegetarian burger) or the start-up that makes “shrimp” from biotechnologically produced red algae. These are companies that make everything from steak to foie gras and are functionally identical to reality. The only difference? No animals need to be injured to make (or rather breed) them.
Remilk promises the same. Instead of producing meat, the laboratory produces dairy products, which essentially fulfill the other main function of a cattle farm. If it lives up to the hype, it could be game over, said CEO and co-founder Aviv Wolff for the traditional dairy industry.
At such a critical time for our planet, each of us should make our contribution to the fight against the climate crisis.
For us at Remilk, we want to do our part by developing dairy products that are better for people, cows and our planet. pic.twitter.com/eXbsQyJboa
– Remilk (@Remilk_Foods) October 31, 2020
“You have to invest a lot of resources and energy to create a 900 kilogram animal,” Wolff told Digital Trends.
Even if you ignore the moral question of whether it is right to raise cows for slaughter or milking, the dairy industry poses problems. Cows cost money and resources to reproduce and grow to maturity. They also do not produce shortages of greenhouse gas emissions and manure, which can degrade local water resources. Their agriculture can also adversely affect local wetlands and prairies. However, people keep buying dairy products because people are just selfish and delicious.
Everything about the microbes
“I think I am a perfect example of someone who consumes dairy products, although I am very much aware of the destructiveness of this industry,” said Wolff. “I realized that I am who it is [very aware of the impact the dairy industry has] and I can’t make the transition to a fully vegan diet, nor will the average person. At Remilk, our mission is not to change consumer demand, but to change the supply of products. “
Wolff described milk proteins as “the most unique proteins in nature”. There are substitutes such as vegan cheese or non-dairy yogurt. They just don’t taste good. Here Remilk – that of Wolff and his Ph.D. Co-founder Ori Cohavi – hopes to get into the picture. “We surpass traditional milk production in every conceivable parameter – in terms of the amount of water we need, the amount of raw materials we need, the amount of time and energy we need,” he said.
Maren Caruso / Getty Images
Remilk’s process uses what is known as microbial fermentation, which involves replicating milk proteins in a tank to produce real dairy products that are functionally identical to cow’s milk without the need for a cow.
“It can only take two to three days for these microbes to multiply enough to completely fill the tank,” said Wolff. “We are talking about hundreds of thousands of liters. In just a few days, you will have a tremendous amount of microbes, and each of them is actually a dairy factory because it can make these proteins. All you have to do is feed them the most basic nutrition you can imagine. Right now we’re using a basic sugar molecule, but we’re working on a model that can feed these microbes with agricultural waste. We will literally be using waste to make fully functional proteins. “
Soon in a store near you
Remilk aims to make a variety of dairy products, from cheese to yogurt to liquid milk. “We have a full, small-scale demonstration of the entire process,” said Wolff. “We have an impressive laboratory here in Israel in which we manufacture proteins and reformulate them into various dairy products. So far we have made and tested more than a dozen different dairy products. We tested these products double-blind and proved that they cannot be distinguished from conventional dairy products. “
The company intends to have its first product, a mozzarella cheese, on the shelves by the end of next year at a price comparable to what you can find at Trader Joe’s or wherever you buy your cheese.
The latest $ 11.3 million will help the team scale the process. “At the moment we’re using 20 to 100 liter tanks,” said Wolff. However, the system, that is, the process and microbes, work the same way if you put them in a 20 liter tank or a 100,000 liter tank. What is changing dramatically is the price. “
The price and the potential impact this could have. Soon in a store near you.