Zero Cow Factory, a biotech startup headquartered in Surat, India, has recently secured $4 million (INR 32 crores) in a seed funding round. The round was led by Green Frontier Capital, GVFL, and Pi Ventures, with participation from Pascual Innoventures, the investment division of Spanish dairy company Calidad Pascual. The startup plans to use the funds to speed up its research and development efforts. It plans to expand its production capabilities and obtain the necessary regulatory approvals to launch its products in the market.
Zero Cow Factory’s Technology
Zero Cow Factory was established in 2021 by Parini Kapadia and Sohil Kapadia. The company uses precision fermentation technology to create animal-free proteins and dairy products. This process involves microbial organisms producing a specific product. To do this, the startup first identifies the gene segment or DNA codes responsible for protein production in animals like cows, such as casein and whey. The team then manually synthesizes the DNA codes in a lab and inserts them into microorganisms. The microorganisms are then trained to produce identical or similar proteins in a lab environment. Finally, precision fermentation is used to produce protein on a large scale, followed by a downstream protein purification process.
The biotech startup claims its alternative protein products contain roughly 99% pure protein. Also that they are devoid of lactose, antibiotics, growth hormones, and saturated fats. The startup is still in the research and development phase.
Regulatory Approvals and Expansion Plans
Currently, Zero Cow Factory cannot directly sell its products in India and the US under regular licenses such as FSSAI and FDA. The startup plans to apply for regulatory approval in India and other markets, including the US. Once the approval is obtained, the startup will focus on pricing its products, which may initially be slightly high. Sohil Kapadia, the co-founder of the biotech startup, stated that the price is expected to decrease as production scales up.
Zero Cow Factory plans to expand its reach beyond India and into more established markets like the US and Singapore. The startup intends to use the seed funding to establish a pilot facility in Gujarat, India.
The company believes that its products, free from animal cruelty, unsustainable farming practices, and environmental concerns, can potentially disrupt the dairy industry. With the current criticism faced by the dairy industry, the biotech startup aims to be a sustainable alternative. Thus, creating a positive impact on the environment.
Zero Cow Factory intends to adopt a business-to-business (B2B) model and collaborate with fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) firms to sell its alternative protein products to end consumers. Its target markets include mature economies such as Singapore, the US, and India.
The biotech startup has also secured grants for its innovative work. The startup received a grant of INR 50 lakh from the Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC) in the past. It also received an additional grant of INR 40 lakh from the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY). According to the founder, several grants are also in the pipeline. These grants have been instrumental in helping the startup pursue its research and development work.
The Indian plant-based startup Zero Cow Factory faces competition from global brands such as Perfect Day, New Culture, ReMilk, and Imagindairy in the alternative protein market. However, the startup does not have any direct competitors in India. In the wider dairy products space, the Indian startup ecosystem has seen the emergence of companies such as Country Delight, which sells milk and dairy products; MoooFarm, which helps farmers increase milk yield, purchase cattle, and obtain loans; and Stellaps, which aims to improve agri-supply chain parameters like milk production, procurement, and cold chain.