FRANCE – French dairy giant Danone has announced its strategic investment in Israeli Startup Imagindairy Ltd, aiming to pave the way to a collaboration on developing animal-free dairy products using precision fermentation technology to meet consumer preferences and demands with financial terms not disclosed.

According to Imagindairy’s co-founder and CEO Dr Eyal Afergan, the partnership is multilayered, with investments on one end and talks to build collaboration with the R&D teams to develop animal-free products.

“It’s a very nice investment that will help us to move forward and eventually have the right product and everything in place like cost, price and taste, which could lead us to a commercial agreement,” he added.

Afergan said Danone’s strategic investment comes as the startup is transitioning into an industrial company and is targeting the launch of its first product in the US by the end of this year together with an unnamed dairy producer.

“We just provide the protein itself and they develop the product,” Afergan said. “The first step is to reach commercial production and getting regulatory approval in the US and then in other geographies.”

In a statement posted on LinkedIn, Imagindairy said that the change is anticipated by joining forces with the industry leaders that share the vision of creating a healthy and sustainable future, to mention Danone.

The French dairy giant stated that Imagindairy is fully aligned with Danone Manifesto Ventures’ goal to work with mission-driven food and beverage companies that are creating a healthy and sustainable future.

“The company is developing new technologies that can create dairy proteins via precision fermentation. Given its strong research-driven approach, we believe Imagindairy has the power to be a successful company in this emerging space,” it added.

Imagindairy pointed out that it further provides the know-how of utilizing precision fermentation that incooperates microorganisms such as yeast or fungi to produce milk proteins that are scientifically identical cows.

Precision fermentation is a technology that has been used in the food industry for more than 40 years, for example, in the production of food enzymes.

The technology, based on 15 years of research led by Tuller, a professor at Tel Aviv University, recreates animal-free versions of whey and casein proteins that can be used to produce any dairy duplicates.

Imagindairy uses it to produce animal-free milk proteins cost-effectively and to improve the productivity of their organisms, Afergan noted.

Earlier this year, the Israel Innovation Authority called for proposals to build R&D facilities that use precision fermentation technology for the development of alternative proteins to uphold the country’s edge in the field.

The strategic investment is hoped to be the first step towards the option of building production facilities in Israel.

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