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With AI-driven "Precision Formulation," Climax Foods Inc. Makes History with Plant-based Casein



The award-winning Climax Foods Inc., an A.I. Food Tech startup using data science and machine intelligence to create animal-free products from plants, today announced the discovery of the first-ever plant-based protein ingredient that replicates the functional performance, including melting and stretching, of dairy protein casein.


Climax Foods has made history by producing a plant-based protein solution that replicates the functionality, texture, and taste of animal milk's major protein. This vegan alternative is free from hormones, antibiotics, and all 8 top allergens, as well as being sustainably produced through the firm's innovative "precision formulation" process. Better still, it achieves price parity with traditional casein derived from livestock. In light of industrial animal agriculture's contribution to global warming and resource depletion, this scientific breakthrough is a fantastic boon for our planet and a massive milestone for the future of food. Climax Foods have truly blazed a trail towards wide acceptance of dairy alternatives.


Climax Foods’ owes this radical new casein replacement to their 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."


Today's dairy alternatives are often oil and starch mixtures, with inadequate levels of nutritients, texture, and usability. More than $1.5B has been allocated to a dozen companies attempting to develop a microbial stand-in for casein through precision fermentation; they have yet to surmount the hurdle of scalability and regulation. By leveraging artificial intelligence (A.I.), Climax' scientists have instead identified an array of abundand plant proteins that can deliver desirable properties to vegan cheeses, such as melt and stretch.


"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," explains 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."


"Our goal is not just to give vegans better options – we are offering a better way to everyone, especially hardcore cheeselovers," Zahn continued. "To do this, we committed ourselves to understanding, on a microscopic level, what makes animal-based foods so craveable, and used that understanding to determine the precise steps needed to get that same exact performance from plant sources like seeds. We're not changing any ingredients genetically; we're using what is already there. The difference comes from our depth of knowledge of the rich biodiversity of the plant kingdom down to a cellular level. Plants can impart all of the same texture, taste, and performance of animal-based ingredients – our AI-enabled Deep Plant Intelligence platform takes away the guesswork. For our casein replacement, our AI platform and precision formulation process helped us uncover a mechanism in specific plant proteins that imparts indistinguishable melt and stretch and mouthfeel from casein while also dramatically improving nutrition."


Michelin chefs and plant-based chefs Tal Ronnen and Matthew Kenney have already praised plant-based cheeses made with Climax's casein replacement. Climax Foods' vast potential to help reformulate and refashion core cheese products into plant-based versions is also being recognized by leading cheese manufacturers such as Bel Group.


Bel Group's Director of Research and Applications, Anne Pitkowski, said, "Caseins are involved in all dairy transformations including cheese, yogurt, cream, and others. They are directly responsible for the product texture, stability and, moreover, bring the very unique property of stretchability. Those properties are linked to the specific micellar structure of the casein assemblage that, until Climax Foods' discovery, had not been met anywhere else in nature."


Zahn says that Climax Foods' precision formulation process can eventually be applied to 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," adds Zahn.

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