QL AG Partners with Ginkgo Bioworks to Develop Fermentation-Based Dairy Proteins

Swiss-based QL AG, a food technology firm with a mission to “feed the world, skip the cow, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” has unveiled a strategic partnership with Ginkgo Bioworks, a cell programming and biotech company, to introduce fermentation-based dairy proteins that are on par with traditional options in terms of nutritional value.

QL AG, known for its innovative biotechnological solutions, seeks to leverage Ginkgo Bioworks’ proficiency in strain engineering of microorganisms to develop animal-free dairy proteins to cater to evolving consumer demands.

“Dairy proteins derived using fermentation have advantages across many key dimensions, including taste and texture”

Kalpesh Parekh, vice president of business development at Ginkgo Bioworks, cited the vast potential of dairy proteins for the company’s platform: “Dairy proteins provide an exciting opportunity to leverage our platform, as they have traditionally presented product developers with significant challenges around protein productivity, economics, and functionality for efficacy across different applications. We aim to solve such challenges with our deep expertise in protein engineering, novel bioactivity and biochemistry identification, high-throughput expression, functional studies, and scale-up capabilities.”

Gingko Bioworks bioreactors
Supplied by Gingko Bioworks

Dairy industry’s climate challenges

The dairy sector finds itself grappling with mounting challenges attributable to the persistent impacts of climate change, which have led to diminishing land and water resources. The global landscape is witnessing an escalation in supply chain disruption, driving up production costs and fueling consumer demands for food alternatives that are not only healthy but also sustainable and cost-effective. Recent studies have found that animal-free milk produced using fermentation can generate up to 96% fewer emissions than cow’s milk, further highlighting the environmental benefits of shifting away from traditional dairy.

Due to these shifts in market dynamics, the alternative dairy industry has experienced remarkable growth, accumulating billions of dollars in revenue in recent years. European alternative milk sales alone have experienced an impressive 49% growth in the last two years, and studies show that, at price parity, animal-free cheese has the potential to share 33% of the UK cheese market. Nevertheless, many dairy substitutes still don’t fulfill consumer expectations, particularly regarding taste and texture. 

Visualization of a milk protein – Supplied by Ginkgo Bioworks

Advantages of fermentation-derived dairy proteins

Roger Föhn, CEO and co-founder of QL AG, highlighted the benefits of dairy proteins produced through fermentation, stating: “Dairy proteins derived using fermentation have advantages across many key dimensions, including taste and texture, as well as the fact that they have no arable land requirement and a lower water requirement.”

“By accessing Ginkgo’s platform, QL AG can help reduce the cost of producing dairy proteins with fermentation. We are excited to pursue our goal of making a quantum leap in alternative agriculture by leveraging Ginkgo’s unique capabilities in producing strains at high titers and scaling fermentation processes,” concluded Föhn.

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