Climax Foods is revolutionizing the plant-based food industry by leveraging data science and Benchling as their source of truth for R&D data.
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Climax Foods Incorporates Data Science and Benchling

Climax Foods, Inc., a leading food-tech company in the next-generation foods industry, has gained a competitive advantage by embracing data science and leveraging Benchling as its central source of truth for R&D data, collaboration, and insights. With the growing demand for environmentally sustainable foods and rapidly evolving consumer preferences, Climax Foods is revolutionizing the traditional consumer packaged goods (CPG) and agriculture sectors by using data science and machine intelligence to create animal-free products from plants.

Founded by data scientists who previously worked at Google, Impossible Foods, and SpaceX, Climax Foods takes a data-driven approach to cheese production, focusing on measurable data points such as flavor, texture, meltability, color, nutritional value, scalability, cost, and sustainability. By modeling and prototyping these properties in an assay-model-feedback loop, which applies machine learning (ML), Climax Foods continuously improves its plant-based cheeses and develops new digital recipes. Benchling, a cloud-based platform, has played a crucial role in enabling Climax Foods’ innovative work, providing the necessary infrastructure for FAIR (findable, accessible, interoperable, reusable) data, ML support, featurization, data correctness and quality checks, and model training.

Compared to the conventional trial-and-error approach, Climax Foods’ data-driven R&D process offers faster cycle times and superior end products. Remarkably, the company has been able to master the production of challenging artisanal cheeses, including brie, feta, chevre, and blue cheese, within just two to three years. Moreover, Climax Foods recently announced a breakthrough discovery—a plant-based protein ingredient that replicates the melt and stretch of dairy protein casein using ML. The company attributes its success and innovation to the critical role played by the Benchling platform. As a result of its product momentum, Climax Foods has secured a partnership with The Bel Group, the maker of Babybel cheese, to co-develop new products. The Bel Group is a major global food player and the world leader in branded cheese.

Karthik Sekar, Ph.D., Head of Data Science at Climax Foods, emphasizes the importance of data science in achieving sustainable foods: “Our building blocks are the three hundred thousand varieties of plants, which can be combined in millions of different ways to reach specific textures, flavors, smells, and environmental impact. This is a huge combinatorial screening problem that even the largest labs can’t crack when done manually. Climax Food is uniquely positioned to meet this challenge with our focus on data and machine learning.”

Recognizing the limitations of using ad-hoc spreadsheets for data entry and tracking, Climax Foods turned to Benchling in 2021 as it experienced rapid growth in its team, product line, and customer base. The company understood that spreadsheets hindered scalability, wasted scientists’ time, and created barriers to efficient operations. While Climax Foods had initially considered building its own databases and query tools, it realized that this approach would be costly, time-consuming, and potentially inferior to a specialized third-party solution.

By leveraging Benchling, Climax Foods focused on three key areas to enhance its data and ML-driven operations: data management and centrality, adaptability and scalability, and consistent cross-team ontology. Previously, data existed separately across different files and Google Sheets, making it challenging to run queries and retrieve results. Moreover, the limitations of Google Sheets became evident as the prototyping team expanded, requiring a platform that could handle multiple users inputting high volumes of data simultaneously. Additionally, the company couldn’t rely on data engineers to input and model new data and workflows efficiently. Benchling’s centralized platform addressed these challenges by consolidating all data in one place, improving data integrity, and streamlining query execution. With Benchling’s modular and adaptable platform, Climax Foods can generate new experiments and protocols rapidly, ensuring speed and velocity in its scientific endeavors.

Managing sophisticated data science, optimizations, and ML capabilities was another crucial aspect for Climax Foods as its R&D efforts evolved. The company needed its scientists’ models to track variables such as meltability and flavor while adhering to cost limitations. Establishing a consistent ontology across teams was paramount to achieving these objectives, ensuring that classifications had the same meaning across prototyping and textual contexts. The company found it nearly impossible to manage ontology effectively in its previous disparate systems. However, Benchling’s centralized platform organized key concepts such as ingredients, formulations, and assays, providing a solid foundation for improved experimental comparability. Benchling’s pre-built ontology allowed the Climax Foods team to build upon and customize it according to their needs.

Benchling, the pioneer of the R&D Cloud, offers software that enables biotechnology organizations to harness the power of technology in their research and development processes. Over 200,000 scientists at more than 1,200 companies and 7,500 academic and research institutions globally have adopted the Benchling R&D Cloud, which helps accelerate breakthrough discoveries and bring the next generation of medicines, food, and materials to market. By modernizing scientific processes and enhancing collaboration, Benchling assists organizations in navigating the complexities of biology to achieve transformative results.

Climax Foods has embraced data science and Benchling’s centralized platform to revolutionize the next-generation foods industry. By leveraging data-driven approaches, machine learning, and Benchling’s capabilities, Climax Foods has accelerated its R&D processes, creating superior plant-based products, and forging strategic partnerships with prominent players in the food industry. With the combination of data science and Benchling’s tools, Climax Foods is at the forefront of sustainable food innovation, paving the way for a future where plant-based alternatives can match and surpass their animal-based counterparts in taste, texture, and environmental impact.

Image provided by Climax Foods

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