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India's first animal-free precision fermentation dairy startup secures US$4 million in seed funding

April 6, 2023

Zero Cow Factory, a biotechnology company producing India's first animal-free protein and dairy products using bioengineering microbes and precision fermentation, has announced it has raised US$4 million in a seed round.

The round was co-led by Green Frontier Capital, GVFL and pi Ventures, with participation from Pascual Innoventures, the investment arm of a leading Spanish dairy group Calidad Pascual. With this funding, Zero Cow Factory will be able to accelerate its R&D efforts, scale up production capacity, and obtain regulatory approvals to hit the market.

Surat-based Zero Cow Factory was founded in 2021 by Sohil Kapadia and Parini Kapadia (pictured) with the aim of revolutionizing the dairy industry by producing sustainable animal free milk proteins and dairy products. Their product is a new alternative to cow's milk protein that replicates its taste, texture, nutrient profile, and appearance. The company has developed a patented technology to produce dairy proteins such as casein and whey, without any animal being involved.

Zero Cow Factory is highly focused on animal-free casein production which is the most complex protein. The company's first product is A2 Beta-casein which is also healthier as the A1 milk protein which causes indigestion is absent from their product. The aim is to be the first company to get global regulatory approval for this protein. This will be used to formulate various sustainable food and dairy products like cheese, yogurt, ice-cream, supplement powder etc. which are used across various industries like food, dairy, CPG, nutraceutical, and dietary supplements.

The company's animal-free 'smart protein' is a healthy alternative to cow's milk protein as it is free of lactose, antibiotics, growth hormones, cholesterol and saturated fat. Moreover, compared to conventional dairy farming, it is created through a more environmentally-friendly process, with higher efficiency metrics. The technology requires 99% less land, 98% less water, emits 84% less CO2e, and consumes 65% less energy. The company has already demonstrated proof of concept at lab scale with a small bioreactor which is producing animal-free casein. With this funding round, they will accelerate work on building their pilot facility in Gujarat to be ready for commercial production. They are in discussions with multiple Fortune 500 companies across the CPG, dairy and nutraceutical sectors who have shown a keen interest to partner with the company to formulate various products using Zero Cow Factory's milk proteins as ingredients while replacing milk in their supply chain.

"We are excited to partner with our investors' outstanding setup and combine them with our talented team, which positions us uniquely to lead the way in building a global dairy 3.0 that is animal-free, sustainable, and scalable," commented Sohil Kapadia, Co-founder & CEO of Zero Cow Factory.

"We are developing a technology to reproduce milk proteins to craft real dairy products that are ethical, safe, delicious, and identical to cow milk but without any animal involved," added Parini Kapadia, Co-founder & CSO.

"With cattle being the number one agricultural source of greenhouse gases, precision fermentation startups have the potential to disrupt the dairy industry globally," suggested Sandiip Bhammer, Co-Managing Partner & Founder at Green Frontier Capital. "If the world (and India) has to achieve its net zero goals, there needs to be a pivot rather quickly to sustainable solutions like precision fermentation and, in that regards, Zero Cow Factory, is working assiduously on developing its own proprietary A2 casein-based solution, a weakness which plant-based ingredients have not yet been able to address successfully."

"Zero Cow Factory's use of cutting-edge bioengineering and life science based technologies to change the future of food production aligns well with our investment thesis of backing disruptive tech ventures," stated Shubham Sandeep, MD at pi Ventures. "We have been impressed by Sohil and Parini and look forward to working with the entire team at Zero Cow Factory to bring lab-grown dairy products to the masses."

"Zero Cow Factory is at the forefront of innovation in the alternative protein space," concluded Kamal Bansal, MD at GVFL. "Their mission is to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions by providing a sustainable solution that is better for the planet, people and animals."

Zero Cow Factory is also a part of global innovation accelerators such as Mylkcubator in Spain, MassChallenge in Switzerland and Plug and Play in the USA. Zero Cow Factory has previously raised an undisclosed pre-seed round from global FoodTech investors Artesian VC and Brinc.

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