Danish startup harnesses insights from the dairy industry to make realistic vegan cheese
Founded by Andrea Donau, Mikkel Dupont and Anna Gundorfh, FÆRM has designed a proprietary technology that mimics traditional dairy fermentation using rennet and cultures to treat legumes such as soybeans, which is then fermented and drained to create vegan cheese. This process mimics traditional cheese making processes by using starter cultures, such as lactic acid bacteria, during fermentation.
“Through research, stubbornness, and countless tests, we achieved the impossible: put plants through the same custom process as traditional cheese,” FÆRM says on its website.
Notably, using its technology, the startup has been able to make soy milk coagulate like cow’s milk, a feat that the startup says not many companies have been able to achieve.
“Turning [the vegan cheese] from a liquid vegetable drink, to a solid, diverse and complex delight. Thanks to enzymes and bacteria”, says the company.
To date, the company has developed three vegan cheeses: cream cheese, brie, and fresh mozzarella. FÆRM says the mozzarella took a long time to get right because they wanted to make sure it stretched and melted like traditional fresh mozzarella. They are also working to develop their first firm, sliceable cheese.
The startup relies on legumes like soybeans instead of nuts like cashews because they are more sustainable and offer better nutritional profiles.
The company also notes that its cheese-making methods not only provide better flavor and texture, but also a shorter ingredient list. Their products typically include soybeans, sunflower oil, citric acid, sugar, salt, cultures, and enzymes.
Using cultures and enzymes for their traditional fermentation methods also lends itself to scaling up production in existing dairy plants because they can use the same equipment. “With our approach, we have created a process for a plant-based product that is so unique that we were able to write a patent on it,” the company says. “But it is still so familiar that it can be implemented on existing dairies without changing equipment or personnel.”
Expansion of vegan cheese production
FÆRM recently joined Venture Lab, a start-up accelerator of the international non-profit foundation BioInnovation Institute which will lend the start-up €500,000 (USD 528,000) and help them scale their process, improve scientific development and the team, and find business partners to carry their vegan cheeses. to the market. By becoming part of the Venture Lab program, early-stage companies also get an exclusive opportunity to apply for €1.4 million in follow-on funding through the institute’s Venture House program.
FÆRM is the only food technology company to join Venture Lab, which typically focuses on therapeutic, bio-industrial and health technologies. As part of the program, the startup will be supported in making crucial business decisions. With the assistance of a scientific adviser, leadership coach and business development expert, FÆRM will receive guidance in developing a detailed business plan to set them up for success and get their products to market faster.
In 2021, FÆRM was also a finalist at the SDG Tech Awards, an event that discovers, showcases and promotes sustainable technology innovations from startups, SMEs and corporations.
“Cheese is a long, gentle process that allows the proteins to work together to go from a runny milk to a nice firm mass that can do all the magic tricks we know and love about cheese,” says FÆRM.
“And centuries of discoveries have found how sugars in milk can be cultured to develop complex flavors and experiences. We want to bring that experience to everyone, just without the dairy.”