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Aviv Wolff from Remilk celebrates some major milestones for precision fermentation

April 30, 2023

Following last week's announcement of Remilk's first regulatory permit in Israel to sell cow-free milk, clearing the path for the sale of dairy products made with the food-tech innovator's non-animal protein that are free of lactose, cholesterol, antibiotics and growth hormones, we caught up with Aviv Wolff, Co-founder & CEO of the food-tech company

How and when did you get into the food-tech sector?
My connection with food and how it’s made actually goes back to my childhood and stories of my grandfather, who was a dairy farmer. You can say I grew up understanding both the desire for dairy, and the heavy prices associated with it both on the animal welfare and sustainability fronts. Years later, I knew I wanted to take part in an initiative that could really transform the way we make our food and feed our planet’s rapidly growing population without destroying it in the process. Dairy was a natural place for me to begin. I met Dr Ori Cohavi, a biochemist specializing in protein research, and together we founded Remilk in 2019 out of a shared desire to leverage food technology to deliver dairy products in a more sustainable and humane way, without having to sacrifice quality, taste and texture.

What's your approach, how has it evolved, and what makes Remilk stand out?
We understand people are not ready to give up the foods they love. We also understand the way these staple foods are made is destructive to our planet and animals. Our approach is therefore simple: we change the process, not the food.

We turned to nature for the recipe to produce dairy, and utilized the age-old fermentation method with a modern twist to recreate cowless dairy proteins that are identical to their traditional counterparts. To put it simply, we copied the genetic sequence or 'milk making recipe' from a cow, inserted into yeast and transformed these tiny, one celled yeast into a milk- protein-making factory. The end result: identical, nutritious milk proteins that are used to formulate delicious dairy with the same taste and texture but without lactose, cholesterol, hormones and antibiotics.

Our proprietary process is extremely scalable, which enabled us to shift from lab-scale to commercial-scale production. We believe that positions us in a unique place in our industry. We recently announced several regulatory approvals across the USA, Singapore, and last week Israel, opening doors to our protein in important markets.

What do you see as the biggest trends in precision fermentation?
Our innovation team is working with R&D and innovation teams at some of the world’s leading food companies. What we are seeing as a trend is the significant increase in the number of major manufacturers looking toward precision fermentation to power pipeline innovations. With regulatory hurdles clearing, we’ll continue to see an increase in research, new product development, test and learn scenarios and a variety of products from cheeses to dairy beverages hitting the market, and gradually transforming the dairy market as we know it.

What is its potential to solve our food problems?
There are a number of issues. As spotlighted as a result of global issues such as the recent Covid-19 pandemic and geopolitical unrest, the current global supply chain is not stable and unreliable. Climate has an enormous impact on food production, and food production has an enormous impact on climate change. Staple foods such as dairy are hard to produce in large parts of the world due to heat conditions that compromise a cow's ability to produce milk. We know we must stop relying on animals for food. Precision fermentation offers an existing, proven, safe and scalable option, addressing the issues above. It enables us to create a significantly more resilient food system, relying on fewer resources, unaffected by weather, and when it reaches its full potential – at cost that is extremely affordable to populations around the world.  

What are the stumbling blocks and how can we overcome them?
One of the main obstacles precision fermentation companies face is lack of available infrastructure for production at scale. Government policies and incentives for precision fermentation companies will help the industry set up the vital infrastructures enabling production at scale, which can help transform our food systems and secure resilient ones that will cater to our planet’s growing population.

What are the sustainability benefits of precise fermentation?
Animal agriculture relies heavily on Earth’s limited, precious resources and is one of the major contributors to GHG emissions. It is the leading cause for deforestation of the Amazon rainforest which is cleared to make room for animals and their feed. And it takes up to 1,000 liters of water to produce only one liter of milk! Replacing a 600kg animal with one-celled yeast means precision fermentation requires a fraction of the resources: around 1% of the land and 4% of feed, and less than 5% of the water. The production process emits a fraction of the GHG  

Aside from the announcement last week about your regulatory approval in Israel, how are things looking elsewhere in the world for you?
This year, SFA, Singapore’s regulatory body, approved Remilk protein for sale in the Singapore market. Also this year, we received FDA's 'No Questions Letter'. The letter indicates the FDA accepted an expert panel's unanimous conclusion that our animal-free whey protein can be safely used in food products under its GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) standards. In 2022, we declared our Self-Affirmed GRAS status in compliance with the FDA's requirements, allowing us to begin sales of our protein in the USA. There are several other additional regulatory processes underway.

How will your own company evolve from here? Are you optimistic and you have the investment you need?
We feel fortunate to have completed two rounds which provide us with the security to pursue our work, and focus on growth and scale. As the markets evolve so will we, nurturing our collaborations with some of the world’s leading food companies, and forming new ones.

More broadly, what other innovations could we see? For example, combining technologies from different types of fermentation? Or using synthetic biology? Or other things?
There are endless ways in which food tech can evolve, providing new ways to make foods that are nutritious, delicious, and sustainable. Together, we will create new food systems that will ensure there is an abundance of high-quality, accessible offerings for generations to come.

Aviv Wolff was one of 10 experts interviewed for the April/May 2023 edition of Protein Production Technology International in an article about overall breakthroughs in fermentation. Click here to read the latest edition

If you have any questions or would like to get in touch with us, please email info@futureofproteinproduction.com

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