Investment in WUR spin-off boosts development of sustainable alternative to palm and coconut oil

July 6, 2021

A spin-off of Wageningen University & Research (WUR), Time-travelling Milkman (TTM), develops creamy, healthy and sustainable fat ingredients for improving the texture and acceptability of dairy alternatives. With its technology, the company extracts fat droplets from seeds (e.g. sunflower) to make creamy unsaturated fat ingredients. With an investment of 550,000 euros by Oost NL and SHIFT Invest, the Wageningen startup will scale up production and accelerate its market entry.

The production of dairy severely impacts the environment, making the development of alternatives critical. To achieve the desired flavour in the products, palm oil and coconut oil are currently used. These ingredients are, however, not sustainable. Dimitris Karefyllakis, CEO and co-founder of TTM: “We are currently still using palm oil in many dairy alternatives. The palm oil must be transported from afar, and its production leads to deforestation of the tropical rainforests. Our technology allows us to produce small globules of fat (oleosomes) from the seeds of European sunflowers, thus offering a locally produced alternative.” With its product, TTM improves the flavour and texture of plant-based dairy alternatives: “Creaminess comes from fat, not protein. Alternative protein sources are abundant, but the importance of the fat element has been overlooked. Without this, there will be no protein transition.”


Karefyllakis: "We have a clear plan on how we want to achieve our ambitions with TTM. You can't do this alone; you need partners to help you take the next step. Oost NL and SHIFT Invest are now supporting us with knowledge, network and capital, so we can scale up and optimise our production on an industrial scale.”

Professor Remko Boom is the chair-holder of the group Dimitris Karefyllakis obtained his PhD at WUR. He has supported TTM over the past years. He now sees considerable progress in achieving the idea that took root at WUR. "We have discovered that if we can keep the natural structure intact, we can make better ingredients. We can also do this without the need for traditional solvents but simply by using water. It's great that TTM is now able to put this into practice. I hope that this will usher in a new phase where we can move towards more sustainable production of our food."

SHIFT Invest funds TTM from the Thematic Technology Transfer (TTT) grant scheme, which is built around a partnership with the four Dutch technical universities (WUR, TU/e, UT and TU Delft), TNO and RVO. The main focus of TTT is to support early-stage companies that are emerging from scientific research and development into startups with the potential to disrupt the industry. Maurits Burgering, Program Director TTT Circular Technology at WUR is enthusiastic: "A great name anyway: Time-travelling Milkman! Great that we were able to realise an investment from the TTT theme Circular Technology."

Oost NL invests in TTM from the Innovation Fund ION+, an innovation fund for SMEs in Gelderland. TTM also participates in the acceleration programme of StartLife, where startups can accelerate their growth with help from WUR and Oost NL, among others.​