Danish startup leverages dairy industry know-how to produce realistic vegan cheese
Founded by Andrea Donau, Mikkel Dupont and Anna Gundorph, FÆRM designed a patented technology that mimics traditional dairy fermentation by using rennet and cultures to process legumes such as soy, which is then further 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 have achieved the impossible: putting plants through the same bespoke process as traditional cheese,” FÆRM says on its website.
Notably, using its technology, the startup was able to coagulate soy milk like cow’s milk, a feat the startup says not many companies have been able to achieve.
“Coming back [the vegan cheese] from a liquid vegetable drink, to solid, diverse and complex delicacies. 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 hard, sliceable cheese.
The startup relies on legumes like soy rather than nuts like cashews because they are more sustainable and offer better nutrient profiles.
The company also notes that their cheesemaking methods not only provide an improved taste and texture, but also a shorter ingredient list. Its products typically include soybeans, sunflower oil, citric acid, sugar, salt, crops and enzymes.
Using cultures and enzymes for his traditional brewing methods also lends itself to scaling production in existing dairy farms because they can use the same equipment. “With our approach, we’ve created a process for a plant-based product that’s so unique that we’ve been able to write a patent on it,” the company says. “But it’s still so familiar that it can be implemented into existing dairies without changing equipment or personnel.”
Expansion of vegan cheese production
Recently, FÆRM joined Venture Lab, a startup accelerator of the international non-profit foundation BioInnovation Institute which will lend the startup €500,000 ($528,000) and help it scale its process, improve scientific development and team and find business partners to bring its vegan cheeses to market. By joining the Venture Lab programme, early-stage companies also have the exclusive opportunity to apply for €1.4 million in follow-up funding through the institute’s Venture House programme.
FÆRM is the only food technology company to join Venture Lab, which typically focuses on therapeutic, bio-industrial and healthcare technology. As part of the programme, the startup will be supported in making crucial business decisions. Assisted by a scientific advisor, a leadership coach and a business development expert, FÆRM will be guided 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 in the SDG Tech Awards, an event that discovers, showcases and promotes sustainable technology innovations from startups, SMEs and enterprises.
“Making cheese is a long, delicate process that allows proteins to work together to go from a runny milk into a nice firm mass that can do all the magic tricks we know and love from cheese,” says FÆRM.
“And centuries of discovery have uncovered how to grow the sugars in milk to develop complex flavors and experiences. We want to give that experience to everyone, just without the dairy.