African animal-free start-up De Novo Dairy Bags Pre-seed funding for cow-free milk
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South African company De Novo Dairy, the continent’s first precision fermentation dairy startup, has announced the closing of a successful pre-seed funding round that will enable the company to advance R&D. One of a growing number of startups using pioneering precision fermentation around the world, the company creates dairy proteins identical to those found in nature, without the cows or the cruelty.
Launched earlier this year, Cape Town-based De Novo Dairy is working on pioneering animal-free foods in Africa. Led by the same team that founded Gourmet Grubb, an ice cream made from insect protein, De Novo’s round, which remains undisclosed (the team said green queen it’s in the “highest six figures”), was backed by New York and Singapore-based VC Big Idea Ventures, Kale United, Ryan Bethencourt’s Sustainable Food Ventures as well as other angels and family offices.
R&D plans on track
De Novo Dairy is betting on precision fermentation technology, the same used by American pioneer Perfect Day, to create a line of animal-free dairy products including ice cream, cheese and yogurt. The products will be lactose-free, cruelty-free and bio-identical to conventional dairy products.
The company plans to continue its initial R&D efforts, which include creating a prototype and possibly increasing production. Thanks to their participation in the Big Idea Ventures accelerator, the startup is well on its way to achieving its goals.
A second funding round is planned for early 2022 to raise enough to build a pilot production facility.
Africa: a growing food technology hub
Driven by environmental concerns, climate change and growing awareness of food security, the landscape of the alternative protein scene in Africa is becoming increasingly diverse. Vegan meat brands such as Nigerian company VeggieVictory and longtime Durban-based Fry’s Family Food Co. are giving consumers more options. The same goes for newer names including Sea-Stematic, South Africa’s first cell-cultured seafood company, and Mzansi Meat, a cultured meat startup also based in South Africa.
The plant sector has seen continued growth in Africa largely due to concerns about animal welfare and sustainability. National startups bringing innovation to everyday food choices will ensure this trajectory continues.
“The massive amount of international capital flowing into the African continent is a game-changer for food tech companies such as De Novo Dairy. We finally have the opportunity to put South Africa on the map as a hub for food tech companies,” said De Novo Founder and CEO Jean Louwrens.
Animal-free dairy products are on the rise
Seeking to use precision fermentation to create a variety of milk-based products, including infant formula, De Novo is in good company with a host of other industry startups such as US-Australian Change Foods, which focuses on animals. casein-free cheese and Formo, a German dairy-free cheese company that recently raised a record US$50 million Series A.
Perfect Day is undoubtedly the de facto giant of the young industry: the company has in recent months announced animal-free whey cream cheese, protein powder and cake mix, and its Bravo Robot ice cream. continues to dominate store shelves. Earlier this month, the company scored a big win with Starbucks, currently testing Perfect DAY’s milk in a few pilot sites.
Main image courtesy of Pexels.