New Zealand food tech start-up, Miruku, has raised US$2.4 million in an oversubscribed seed-investment round to develop animal-free dairy protein from plants.
The country is one of the world’s biggest exporters of dairy products, and the company seeks to pivot to more sustainable production for farmers and food systems by pioneering animal-free dairy protein.
The company was established in 2020 by CEO Amos Palfreyman, a former dairy industry executive; Ira Bing, a technology and life science investor; Prof Harjinder Singh, an expert in milk protein science and technology; and Prof Oded Shoseyov, food tech and molecular agronomy expert.
To develop the animal-free dairy protein, the start-up uses a molecular farming process that uses plant cells as “mini-factories” to replicate proteins, fats, and sugars, which have only been sourced from animals.
The technology allows the development of traditional dairy derivatives like yoghurt, cheese, and other milk-based products. The company’s molecular arming platform is also designed for scale and implementation across different environments.
“Miruku’s breakthrough plant technologies hold potential to produce animal-free milk proteins cost-effectively,” explains Prof Shoseyov. “Plants lie at the bottom of the food chain. Miruku cuts out the middlemen (cows) which convert plant energy (sugars) to proteins.”
He added that plant-based food systems with improved protein functionality is more efficient and can provide for the needs of humans without harming the environment.
“We share a vision that applies the sharp edge of applied science to agronomy and food tech, at scale, with global partners,” stated Palfreyman. “Our goal is to provide nutritious and functional animal-free dairy economically.”
The investment round was led by New Zealand venture capital fund Movac and includes Asia Pacific investor Better Bite Ventures, Colorado-based Ahimsa Foundation, and NZ Growth Capital Partners via the Aspire fund.