PALO ALTO, CALIF. — Change Foods, a developer of animal-free dairy products, has secured more than $15.3 million in total seed funding following an oversubscribed seed extension round led by Route 66 Ventures.

The food technology startup also signed strategic collaboration agreements with Upfield, the parent company of plant-based spreads and cheese brands, including Flora, I Can’t Believe It's Not Butter, Country Crock and Violife; and Sigma, a global producer of packaged meats, cheese, yogurts and other refrigerated and frozen foods.

Founded in 2020, Change Foods uses precision fermentation technology to create dairy proteins, specifically caseins, to produce cheese without cows. The company’s new partnerships and funding will support product development and accelerate cheese production and distribution capability. Change Foods is targeting its initial market launch for late next year.

“Our mission is to transform the global cheese business with new products that deliver the indulgent taste and eating experience of traditional animal-derived products, but without the detrimental impacts of industrialized animal agriculture,” said David Bucca, founder and chief executive officer of Change Foods. “Our flagship funding round and collaboration agreements demonstrate confidence in our ability to usher in revolutionary animal-free cheese products. Industry partnerships are a critical part of our business model as we look to leverage the scale and expertise of leading industry players to rapidly expand production and go-to-market.”

Precision fermentation for several decades has been used to produce non-animal rennet for most cheese produced globally today, Mr. Bucca said. Change Foods is extending this technology to replace milk proteins and fats to eliminate the need for cows in cheesemaking, he said.

“That matters because out of all food products, cheese is third in greenhouse gas emissions behind beef and lamb, and first in fresh-water utilization per pound,” Mr. Bucca said.

Additional investors include Upfield, Orkla, Green Generation Fund, Blue Horizon Ventures, Plug and Play Ventures, Clear Current Capital, Better Bite Ventures, Google executive Jeff Dean, English professional footballer Chris Smalling, and Sigma.

“Sigma brings a blend of art and science to the table that has allowed us to master consumer knowledge and create high-quality foods with local flavors,” said Gregorio De Haene, chief technology officer of Sigma. “We are enthusiastic about collaborating with Change Foods to develop animal-free dairy products with sustainability benefits.”