When it comes to fighting climate change, time is short and the stakes could not be higher. However, in the battle to stopping extreme weather disasters and loss of lives, the focus for many has been too narrow. True, it is vital to shift from coal, oil and gas to renewable energy, including solar, wind and hydro-electric power. That is necessary, but not sufficient.
A substantial part of the climate solution is to move to sustainable food without sacrificing nutrition or taste.
Israel, which has battled a harsh climate since its beginning, offers a massive number of climate solutions.
So, let’s talk about cows.
According to Tackling Climate Change Through Livestock, a comprehensive report published by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the livestock sector, which includes milk production, was estimated to account for about 14.5 percent of global human-induced greenhouse gas emissions. Ouch! The stages of the livestock supply chain, including feed production, enteric fermentation (methane produced during digestion), manure management, and processing, can literally kill us in the long term.
Fortunately, there are solutions being created in Israel for both milk and meat. This is the first in a series to look at specific scientific solutions outside of energy that can also make substantial contributions to saving people and our shared planet.
I am delighted to bring you this interview with Dr. Ori Cohavi, Co-Founder & CTO of Israeli-invented Remilk, a global leader in the development of animal-free dairy. The company is driven by a dedication to reinvent the dairy industry by removing cows from the milk-making process. Remilk, for the first time in history, is eliminating the need for dairy cows in industrial-scale dairy production without compromising on taste, functionality, or nutritional values. Remilk is real dairy, no cows.
JLM: What is the specific problem that you and your company are trying to solve?
OC: Remilk addresses one of the most pressing challenges humanity faces today: the urgent need for sustainable and resilient food systems that will effectively feed the world’s growing population.
How do you solve it?
We use a technology called precision fermentation, replacing cows with single-celled microorganisms that produce identical milk proteins quickly and efficiently while requiring a fraction of the resources and emitting a fraction of the harmful greenhouse gases. The milk proteins are used to craft identical milk products in terms of taste and texture.
Why is solving this problem important to you? Why should others care?
Nutritious food is at the core of our existence. One example of the inefficiency of our current food production systems is our use of land. 50% of all habitable land is used for agriculture. 77% of that land is used for growing livestock and its feed. And how much of our caloric intake does all this land use yield? Only 18%. Food demand is expected to grow by up to 56% by 2050. With 50% of land already utilized, simple math reveals the bleak future we face if we don’t take action now and lay the infrastructure for new food systems that require less resources and yield more nutritious food.
What proof is there from studies that show your solution works or has potential?
The technology we use has been successfully utilized for decades to produce ingredients that are part of the foods we eat. Almost all cheeses today contain precision fermentation-derived rennet, and many of the vitamins and natural flavors in our food are produced that way. We use that same technology to produce animal-free milk proteins.
How do you go about doing this?
Our process begins with identifying the genetic sequence that is responsible for milk production in cows. We copy that sequence (we don’t use a single animal cell!) and introduce it into yeast (from the same family as the brewer’s and baker’s yeasts we all know). Once embedded in the yeast, that genetic sequence acts like a manual, instructing the yeast how to produce our protein in a highly efficient way. We then place the yeast in fermenters where it multiplies rapidly and produces real milk proteins, identical to those that cows produce, which are the key building blocks of traditional dairy. These proteins are filtered out and dried to pure powder form, combined with vitamins, minerals, and non-animal fat and sugar (hence no cholesterol or lactose) to form every imaginable dairy product!
What have been some of your biggest successes?
A company like ours, looking to reshape centuries-old food systems, faces the great challenge of turning its vision into a tangible reality. We owe our success to our scientists and engineers who have reached significant scientific breakthroughs both in our labs, and on the production floor. Their revolutionary work enables us to produce milk proteins of the highest quality on a commercial scale and positions us as one of the category’s leading global players. Our exceptional food R&D team successfully formulates these proteins into dairy products that are indistinguishable from cow-based products.
With any startup, there are times when you hit brick wall. Can you give us an example of that and how you pivoted to do something that worked better?
The main challenge facing any global FoodTech company with an audacious vision is to stay focused. Facing a market that has tireless demand for non-animal dairy protein, a company like Remilk must stay uber-focused on hitting its goals. The past year we underwent a strategic process to further crystallize our goals and make sure they were communicated clearly throughout the company, so that we are best positioned to execute them.
As you move ahead, are you looking for partners? Where and how can others help?
We work closely with a variety of partners. We are engaged with leading global food companies and . In Israel we’re in a strategic partnership with leader in the food and beverage market The Central Bottling Company (CBC). From manufacturing facilities to large food companies, our success depends on our ability to establish a diverse array of collaborations.
What is your advice for other people who are just getting started on climate issues?
While it may seem like a crowded space, climate tech is still in its early days and there is endless room for creativity and innovation within it. Most areas of our lives can benefit from a climate-conscious revamp, and it’s crucial for the preservation of our planet. In that sense, entrepreneurs don’t have to necessarily come up with an entirely new product or service; “climatizing” an existing one can be just as transformative.
If folks want to know more about your company, how and where can they find information or contact you?
We invite everyone to follow our journey on our LinkedIn page and learn more about what we do through our website: www.remilk.com