Opalia closes $2 million to make more milk with less moo

Startup develops milk from bovine mammary cells.

Montréal foodtech startup Opalia has secured $2 million CAD to accelerate the development of its tech that produces real milk directly from cells instead of traditional cow milking processes.

The financing round was led by Hoogwegt Group, a Netherlands-based dairy ingredient provider, with participation from Ahimsa Foundation, Box One Ventures, Cycle Momentum, Kale United, and the Québec government, through their Impulsion PME program. According to the startup, the round also includes funding from Natural Products Canada through its Proof of Concept program.

Founded in 2020, Opalia has developed a method to produce real dairy milk using bovine mammary cells rather than through physically milking a cow, which the startup says offers a more ethical and sustainable end product. 

The startup claims its retains the complexity and taste of the original.

Methane produced by cows is the largest contributor to the agriculture sector’s carbon footprint. According to a 2023 report from Lactanet, the average methane produced per cow is approximately 150 kilograms per lactation.

Dairy farming also carries ethical concerns for some consumers, given that cow’s milk is diverted from calves and instead harvested for human consumption. 

Opalia’s milk production process begins with harvesting the bovine mammary cells from a cow. This is only done once, and it is the first and last time an animal is used in the production process. 

The cells are then immersed in a growth medium to begin developing. Once cultivated in sufficient quantities, they are moved to a bioreactor to replicate the conditions in a cow, following which the startup collects the milk, analyzes it for protein, sugar, and fat content, and purifies the milk to ensure it meets specific culinary or industrial processes, before selling its milk directly to commercial partners.

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In addition to being a sustainable alternative to traditional milk, the startup claims its end product retains the complexity and taste of the original.

Prior to closing this round of funding, Opalia closed $250,000 USD from CULT Food Science,  an investment platform with an exclusive focus on cellular agriculture. In a statement, Opalia CEO Jennifer Côté said the funding will support product development as the startup prepares to work with commercial partners ahead of bringing the product to market.

“With Hoogwegt leading our round, we’ve not only gained essential customer validation but also tapped into their extensive network and global market expertise, setting the stage for Opalia’s success,” Côté added.

Feature image courtesy Opalia.

Isabelle Kirkwood

Isabelle Kirkwood

Isabelle is a Vancouver-based writer with 5+ years of experience in communications and journalism and a lifelong passion for telling stories. For over two years, she has reported on all sides of the Canadian startup ecosystem, from landmark venture deals to public policy, telling the stories of the founders putting Canadian tech on the map.

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