© Formo
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About Formo

  • Founders: Raffael Wohlgensinger
  • Founded in: 2019
  • Employees: more than 90
  • Money raised: -
  • Ultimate goal: Replace 10% of the dairy market in Europe by 2030.

One of the main causes of global greenhouse gas emissions is the agricultural sector. Now there are already many alternatives to animal protein. Many vegan foods are still not advanced enough to have the same taste as foods made from animal proteins. That’s why Raffael Wohlgensinger, the founder of Formo, decided to take the matter into his own hands. Oscar Zollman Thomas is the business analyst at the start-up. He tells us in this episode of the start-up-of-the-day series about Formo.

What does Formo do?

“Formo is a precision fermentation company. We are using microorganisms rather than animals to create very specific proteins. In this way, it is also possible to create fat. This is done by genetically modifying these micro organisms to recreate the specific protein that we’re interested in.

When you compare this way of producing protein to animal protein, it is obvious that these little microorganisms have been built specifically to perform this function. We don’t have to worry about the logistics that come with animal protein, such as feeding the animals and letting them wander around. Precision fermentation is a more efficient way of getting the proteins that you need. It is really exciting. Because we now can produce proteins we never thought we could ever recreate.”

Formo’s team ¬© Formo

“This is a really amazing process. People have always used microorganisms to make food, like cheese. or kimchi and soy sauce. Fermenting is a way of preserving and conditioning food that’s already known throughout history. But even on a genetic engineering level, this is a technology that’s been around for now 40-odd years. Although it looks very futuristic for some people, it is already quite common.”

How did the idea about Formo come about?

“Formo was started by Raffael Wohlgensinger back in 2019. He had been a vegan since 2012. And he always knew that he wanted to start a company. He was interested in biology a lot. At the same time he kept asking himself the question: ‘Is it possible to make a product that’s not trying to replicate cheese, but is actually cheese?’. More and more people told him that he had a good idea. This led to gathering an amazing team and raising a series of funding.”

What makes you different from other companies that produce substitutes for dairy or meat?

“There have been many amazing products that have hit the market in the last 10 years. This also changed what it means to be vegan. What these products do is try to replicate traditional animal products. Whereas, when using precision fermentation, we build proteins that have the same functionality down to the molecular level as traditional animal products. The products that we’re making are much closer to what you would experience from an animal product.”

Could precision fermentation be used for producing other types of protein such as egg protein, for example?

“Absolutely! Precision fermentation will be able to replicate anything with protein. Some proteins are more complete to reproduce but it’s possible. Actually, this is something we are also exploring. We’re not just focusing on dairy proteins.”

Where are you now?

“We’ve spent the last two years validating and refining our processes both on creating the microorganisms and taking this process into the food setting and actually building products. We’ve done some basic plans. But now it’s time to really scale the process to the point where it can make a dent in the traditional animal agriculture industry. This year we plan to get the world to taste our product for the first time.”

What have been some of the challenges that you’ve faced along the way?

“One of the hurdles is scaling up the processes to make them operate on the same level as factory farms. Another big part is the regulatory environment. Because especially in Europe, there are many safety standards for food that we need to meet.

The science behind this is also complicated. It is a long process to make sure that the organism internalizes the DNA that the protein is produced in the right way.”

Where do you see Formo in five years?

“I think in five years, everyone will know what Formo does and what precision fermentation is and people will discuss how we want to organize our food system. And they will understand that new technologies like precision fermentation, will play an important role.”