Food tech start-up Eden Brew has raised $5 million to scale its precision fermentation milk production, launch its ice cream NPD, and build its in-house science capabilities.
The funding has built on initial investment from the venture capitalist arm of CSIRO, Main Sequence, with funding from the US-based Digitalis Ventures, which is linked to global food business Mars.
Eden Brew launched last year, saying it had pioneered a way of creating dairy milk using precision fermentation rather than the traditional four-legged bovine supplier.
Using science from CSIRO, it has found a way to produce the same proteins found in cow’s milk. Most of the protein in cow’s milk forms into tiny cages called micelles. These cages are loaded with calcium designed to deliver nutrients as well as giving milk its unique characteristics, including its white colour.
Eden Brew has pioneered a way of creating casein micelles without the cow. Essentially, precision fermentation has enabled to team to ‘brew’ milk.
Exonential growth, globally
Australian All G Foods is also working on a cow free dairy milk while developing a plant-based retail brand.
On the global stage, in May, Israeli alternative dairy business Remilk announced it was building a 69 square metre precision fermentation plant in Denmark after raising $167m earlier this year.
Also in Israel, Imagindairy secured $20.8 million in funding last week, following its initial seed raise in 2021 which raised $18 million.
In the US, Tomorrow Farms is launching its animal-free dairy milk brand Bored Cow in the US this month. The three flavoured milks (vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry) use fermented dairy protein supplied by Perfect Day. The products will be direct-to-consumer, playing on the traditional concept of milk home deliveries
Tomorrow Farms raised $11.8 million in May from Lowercarbon Capital, Maven, and Valor Siren Ventures.
Perfect Day was listed as one of Time100 Most Influential Companies of 2022 in the Innovators category. It was founded in 2014, and renamed Perfect Day in 2016, when a study revealed cows produced more milk when listening to Lou Reed sing Perfect Day.
Scaling the challenge
Eden Brew CEO and co-owner (with Main Sequence and Norco) Jim Fader said the science and businesses coming into the sector are impressive, and all of them need to solve the same problem of scaling fermentation capacity.
“I see some businesses recognise the opportunity of getting into building these very expensive assets that can brew at that scale, but I reckon that's probably an unmet demand for 20 years plus.
“If you build a 10 plus million litre fermentation plant, it could be anywhere from $200 to $400 million, depending on the technology, the setup, the design, and the purification at the backend.
“That’s a lot of money, so you’re not going to get start-ups tripping over for one hundred million on the pavement and going, ‘I’ll build my own plant’,” he said.
It’s a complex problem which Fader says Eden Brew is making process with.
“We have plans to launch regionally in Australia, demonstrate that and de-risk it, and then write a large contract for large capacity over a long period of time and run as fast as we can. We have the opportunity to present ourselves to prospective industrial fermenters as call it an anchor tenant of their capacity.
“And that’s a really important thing to be able to achieve, so that people put the shovel in the soil, they build these assets, we fill it up with production and then others can take advantage of the capacity it’s there,” Fader said.
Main Sequence Partner and Eden Brew chair, Phil Morle, believes in order to make a profound impact on the world and what we eat, we need to tap into technology and science.
“When we build with biology, we can make nature-identical building blocks without the animal – at lower cost with less environmental impact and still meet surging protein demand.
“Precision fermentation is already enhancing food production, not just in cost, but in sustainability and supply chain resilience. The result will be an improvement in the efficiency of current industrial food production that meets the demand of 10 billion people by 2050.
“We’ve witnessed what’s possible with Eden Brew in just a short period of time, and we fully support the company as they take one step closer to launching the product,” said Morle.
Digitalis Ventures partner Steve Allen echoed Morle’s comments.
“We believe science and technology can fill many critical gaps in regard to global nutrition. Eden Brew is focused on new ways of creating food that nourishes our bodies and planet. For this very reason, we are proud to be on Eden Brew’s growth journey.”
The new investment is part of an ongoing capital raise that will result in the retail launch of ice cream in summer 23/24 and scale milk production.