Climax Foods develops plant-based casein replacement

The company uses AI with proprietary "precision formulation"
calendar icon 21 June 2023
clock icon 2 minute read

Climax Foods, an AI food tech startup using data science and machine intelligence to create animal-free products from plants, announced today the discovery of the first-ever plant-based protein ingredient replicating the functional performance, in particular the melt and stretch of the dairy protein casein.

With this discovery, Climax Foods says it is the first company in history to successfully replicate the functionality, texture, and taste of the major protein in animal milk using only plant ingredients. The company said the alternative casein is completely free of hormones, antibiotics, or any of the top-eight allergens. 

Climax Foods’ “precision formulation” process allows them to produce this protein sustainably at scale, with price parity to traditional animal-based casein. 

Climax Foods’ owes the development of the casein replacement to its proprietary process, “precision formulation,” which uses data science and AI to dramatically speed up the discovery of optimal ingredient and process combinations that fully harness the power of plants. While food innovation historically has taken centuries of trial and error, Climax’ AI-powered precision formulation process dramatically accelerates innovation and discovery.

"While our work is based on a deep scientific understanding of plants, we don't have any need to genetically engineer plants to create our unique proteins," said Daniel Westcott, Head of Protein and Texture at Climax Foods. "An immeasurable range of protein diversity and combinations already exists; we simply use data science and machine learning to pay very, very close attention. This gives us the ability to model and verify formulations at the microscopic level in a fraction of the time that it would take a traditional approach. And while we love learning through data science, we generate our data by making cheese, which means that the busiest half of our lab is the kitchen."

"As foodies and scientists, we have a profound appreciation for the complex flavors and textures of dairy products, but also recognize their vast inefficiencies—such as requiring 700 gallons of water to make one pound of cheese," explained Climax CEO and Founder Oliver Zahn, a Harvard-trained astrophysicist and alum at both Google and SpaceX. "Our production process uses 500 times less water at our current pilot scale."

Though the company is starting with dairy products, Zahn says that Climax Foods’ precision formulation process can eventually be applied to replace other animal-based foods as well.

"This is one of the most important scientific breakthroughs in food in the last six thousand years—since humans invented animal agriculture – but we are only getting started," added Zahn.

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