Fonterra has invested in the seed funding round of Vivici, a Dutch start-up developing animal-free dairy proteins through precision fermentation.

The New Zealand dairy giant is one of the founding investors in the start-up, which is headquartered near The Hague. Financial details were not disclosed.

In a statement announcing the funding, Vivici said “alternative sources of protein, complementary to traditional agriculture, are needed to feed the world sustainably, efficiently and safely”.

The start-up said global demand for protein will “nearly double by 2050 and current ways of producing protein alone cannot be scaled sustainably to meet that demand”.

Another founding investor is ingredients supplier DSM-Firmenich, which made the investment through its venture arm DSM-Firmenich Venturing.

Komal Mistry-Mehta, Fonterra’s chief innovation and brand officer, said: “Vivici is an exciting opportunity to combine DSM-Firmenich’s world-leading precision fermentation expertise with Fonterra’s world-leading dairy science and technology. This partnership aligns well with the co-op’s strategy to be a leader in dairy innovation and science.”

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Vivici has its headquarters at the Biotech Campus Delft in the Netherlands, which claims to be the largest open innovation campus in Europe focussed on biotechnology. The start-up also a dairy protein application lab at Dutch research body NIZO Food Research.

Last year, the Dutch government announced the “world’s largest government grant for cellular agriculture”, according to Vivici. The €60m ($64.9m) investment package will support, amongst other things, developing fundamental and applied knowledge, making scale-up facilities available and ensuring access to well-qualified people.

Stephan van Sint Fiet, CEO of Vivici added: “I’m thrilled to work with such an experienced team, that knows what it takes to not only develop but manufacture, register and commercialise great ingredients. Together, we will build Vivici into a precision fermentation leader that contributes to a future-proof food system.”

In February, nine companies, including another that has secured investment from Fonterra, formed the Precision Fermentation Alliance to “serve as an industry voice and global convener for the precision fermentation industry”.

Among the members is US-based Motif FoodWorks, which Fonterra backed in 2019.

Earlier this year, Fonterra revealed its new corporate ventures arm, Nutrition Science Solutions.

It disclosed its first investment through the new unit, spending $10m for a minority shareholding in Pendulum, a San Francisco-based biotech company making dietary supplements.

Another Dutch food company backed by DSM-Firmenich Venturing is Meatable, which recently raised $35m in new funding, taking the total invested in the business to date to $95m.

The cultivated meat company said it will use the new funds to scale and speed up the point when it commercially launches its pork products.

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