Climax Foods, a year-old startup, is using data science to innovate the future of food and make it at a price point accessible to everyone.
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The Berkeley, California-based company raised $7.5 million in an oversubscribed seed funding to intersect data science and food science to create a way to make food by converting plants into products and removing animals from the food system.
In fact, CEO Oliver Zahn told Crunchbase News that using Climax Foods’ method will make the plant-based food taste similar or better than animal-based products.
Investors in the seed round include At One Ventures, Manta Ray Ventures, S2G Ventures, Valor Siren Ventures, Prelude Ventures, ARTIS Ventures, Index Ventures, Luminous Ventures, Canaccord Genuity Group, Carrot Capital, Global Founders Capital and angel investors.
Funding from the seed round will provide capital for research in taste, flavor, texture and nutrition of the most desired animal-based food categories, starting with cheese, Zahn said.
“There is room for innovation in aged cheeses,” he added. “We will mine and leverage all that plants have to offer with optimal outcomes by taking all raw ingredients that have been part of the human diet, but not combined in ways that can help with nutrition, price optimization, taste and texture. The prototypes are very promising.”
Zahn grew up a foodie in southern Germany and carried that love of food to the U.S., where he studied astrophysics at Harvard University. Together with two Nobel laureates, Zahn directed the Center for Cosmological Physics at UC Berkeley. Most recently, he led data science efforts at Google and Impossible Foods.
“We don’t want to make food inferior because the better the foods are, the more impact,” Zahn said. “The plant kingdom is enormous and so vast that humans haven’t scratched the surface of how to extract plant products and combine them, or apply natural methods to transform them into tastes and textures we desire.”
While Climax Foods is only getting started, data science will be critical to innovating food, he added. There are hundreds of thousands of plants the startup is looking at to commercially source at scale, extract them and combine them into tastes and textures. To do this, Climax Foods has created machine-learning frameworks to unlock a plant’s potential.
Next steps for Climax Foods
Climax Foods has approximately 10 employees and plans to hire five more this year in the areas of food scientists, protein functionality, product development and data scientists, Zahn said.
In addition to research, the company will be product focused for the next year with a goal of getting products on the market quickly.
“The beauty of our approach is that it will become predictable to know how long it will take to get to milestone research and development and then go to market,” Zahn said.
Illustration: Dom Guzman
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