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Meet Formo -shaping the future of dairy with $50M in fresh Series-A funding

Say hi to the team of the precision fermentation start-up Formo

Imagine a world where microbes are “milked” instead of cows. This might sound like science fiction but one of the biggest shifts in food production in recent history may be closer than you think. Today, we are excited to announce that EQT Ventures leads the $50M Series-A in the precision fermentation start-up Formo, leading the transition to a better planet through more sustainable dairy products.

Starting with cheese 🧀!

Food is much more than nutrition. It’s joy, culture and everything that makes us human. At the same time, it should come as no surprise that today’s food system is broken. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation estimates that more than one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions caused by human activity can be attributed to the way we produce, process and package food.

Meat often dominates the headlines when it comes to the future of food, but there’s far more to fix in the food system than just burgers and steaks. Within the food category, cheese is the largest CO2 emitter after lamb and beef.

Cheese ranks number three on the food emissions list of shame, which is close to the total amount of emissions from the aviation and shipping industry combined!

The success of plant-based milk and meat has shown that consumer trends are shifting and that animal-free alternatives can go mainstream.

However, when it comes to cheese, it has still only eaten into a fraction of the market as suppliers have not yet been able to deliver tasty alternatives at consumer friendly prices.

This is not an easy task as the replication of the familiar characteristics of cheese like stretching, melting, and mouthfeel is a very challenging technical problem even for the best synthetic biologists.

Thanks to the emergence of frontier technology in food science and precision fermentation more specifically, we believe we may be at a tipping point in the redesign of food systems, making it possible to produce the key substances in cheese currently produced by mammals.

CRACKING CHEESE — THE OPPORTUNITY OF PRECISION FERMENTATION

To understand the role of precision fermentation, let’s start with milk and its role in creating cheese. When using milk, the proteins casein and whey are what give cheese its properties. Meaning there is a great opportunity to disrupt an entire industry by replacing these key ingredients.

Formo’s technology platform enables them to make a range of cheeses — these are photos from the tasting of their creamy Ricotta and delicious Mozzarella

Here is where the heart of Formo’s tech, precision fermentation, comes into play. By inserting DNA sequences, microorganisms can be programmed to produce the proteins casein and whey, bio-identical to that of cow’s milk. These proteins are then combined with plant-based fats and carbohydrates to form the base for cheesemaking, where traditional fermentation techniques are used to turn the product into a range of different cheeses.

This allows Formo’s cheeses to have the same taste, texture and functional properties as animal-derived cheeses but come at a substantially lower cost to the environment, human health, and animal welfare. With microorganisms being up to 20 times more efficient than cows in converting feed into food, there is clearly an opportunity to become price competitive once at scale, enabling Formo to take market share from the conventional cheese market.

So, let’s meet the team behind Formo.👋

Formo was founded in 2019 by Raffael Wohlgensinger and Dr. Britta Winterberg with the mission to create a more sustainable and ethical food system. Britta comes with a strong background in molecular biology from Max Planck Institute and Australian National University, and her co-founder Raffael is not only a Swiss vegan cheese lover, but also brings extensive knowledge of venture development in fast-pace foodtech startups. Fast forward and they have now built a dream team with the world’s most prominent talents within microbiology, bioprocess engineering and food design to overcome the challenges of our broken food system on a molecular level.

MICROORGANISMS — THE COWS OF THE 21ST CENTURY

We are beyond excited to lead Formo’s $50M Series-A and join their mission together with Elevat3 Capital, Lowercarbon Capital, Lionheart Ventures, Happiness Capital and Albert Wenger, next to existing investors Agronomics, CPT Capital, Good Seed Ventures, Grazia Equity, and M Ventures. The funding will be used to boost R&D capacity and fast-track commercialisation ahead of Formo’s market launch. If you, like us, can’t wait for microorganisms to become the cows of the 21st century, make sure to follow Formo’s journey to stay tuned for their launch!

Lastly, a big shout out to my amazing colleagues Ted, Greg, Jenny and Sai for diving into the world of precision fermentation and cheese together, and for being a part of the deal team.

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