Former Google Data Scientist Raises Millions to Make Next-Level Vegan Cheese
Food technology startup Climax Foods recently received a $7.5 million seed investment to fund its mission of creating new-level plant-based foods to help remove animals from the food system.
Oliver Zahn, Ph.D. is a graduate from Harvard University who previously worked as a data scientist for Google and Impossible Foods and recently founded food technology start-up Climax Foods. The company will be using proprietary machine learning frameworks to examine what makes animal products taste the way they do at a molecular level and then mimic those qualities by using plants. Climax Foods is going to start with making vegan alternatives to dairy cheese.
Reengineering Vegan Cheese
“Aged cheese has been a challenging category but the data-driven approach of Climax Foods has created prototypes like nothing I’ve ever tasted on or off the market," says Leah Volger from Manta Ray Ventures.
The Climax Foods team has many years of experience in the plant-based industry, and beyond Zahn includes Caroline Love, former sales lead at JUST, Pavel Aronov, a biochemist who previously worked for Impossible Foods and Gosia Jakubasch, former Protein Functionality lead at JUST and more.
“Climax Foods is unlocking a frontier of how expressive we can be with plant-based foods. They are laying the foundation for a future where healthy, affordable, plant-based foods rival or even surpass the flavor of the animal-based foods they are replacing. Beyond being delicious, the work is crucial for the transition away from unstable animal agriculture which drives massive habitat destruction and generates more than 25 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions," notes Tom Chi of One Ventures and co-founder of GoogleX.
Zahn, founder and CEO of Climax Foods, explained why this is such a crucial moment for plant-based, saying, “We are at a pivotal time where industrialization enabled explosive population growth and consumption of animal products. The animal agriculture industry is complex and wasteful, creating as much climate change as all modes of transportation combined, and using more than a third of the earth’s water and usable land. By speeding up food science innovation, Climax Foods is able to convert plants into equally craveable foods without environmental impact.”