Yili Group and Chinese aerospace launch Space Lab

Soon after China’s Shenzhou 13 crew returned to earth, dairy giant Yili Group entered a collaboration with the China Center for Aerospace Science and Technology International Communications (CCASTIC) to establish a Space Lab for Future Dairy.

The Space Lab will leverage space technology to bring transformative innovations to the health sector. Future space experiments will study the performance of dairy products under special conditions such as long-term microgravity, strong radiation and extreme temperatures.

Yu Dengyun, deputy director of the Science and Technology Committee of CASC and Academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, notes that research on space biology and new space materials will introduce new solutions to upgrade the dairy industry.

“Yili will strive to develop more healthy dairy products that fulfill consumers’ nutritional demands and meet strict quality standards. We will drive and contribute to the upgrading of the dairy industry through space technology,” says Zhang Jianqiu, Yili Group CEO.

The project is affiliated with the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC). 

Utilizing new space materials
Yili and CCASTIC will work closely with related space institutes on scientific research, technology transfers and product development. 

The organizations will collaborate on developing packaging using new space materials, investigating bacterial strains in space, TanSat-based pasture monitoring, and health and nutritional care.

Dr. Situ Wenyou, a scientific research expert of the Innovation Center of Yili, expressed his hope that this interdisciplinary cooperation will bring about “lighter, safer and more environmentally friendly” food packaging materials, as well as nutrition and health products tailored for special segments of the Chinese population.

To date, Yili has built 15 innovation centers across the globe and actively engages in innovation-focused collaborations across its supply chain. By early December 2021, the company became the largest in terms of its total number of patent applications and invention applications.

Yili is also stepping up its efforts to build the Future Intelligence and Health Valley in Hohhot, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, a landmark project for the dairy industry. 

The Valley includes a RMB 5 billion (equivalent to approximately US$785 million) demonstration program focused on the 5G- and AI-based green production of liquid milk, deemed the “largest and most highly automated such initiative of its kind.”

Next-level dairy
The dairy industry has seen a significant boost in innovation from two emergent technologies this year – molecular farming and cellular agriculture – which are making a splash in the alternative dairy space for their ability to remove the cow from the equation. 

Last year, Spanish dairy specialist Pascual launched the first global incubation program for cell-based milk in a program called Mylkcubator. Its goal is to identify those start-ups that can create cell-based milk with at least the same nutritional value of traditional milk “if not superior.”

In other industry moves, TurtleTree recently landed US$30 million to scale the production of its cell-based lactoferrin and human milk oligosaccharides, in what is tipped as one of the largest investment rounds to date in Asia’s cell-based food sector.

Elsewhere, US-based start-up Biomilq specializes in mammary cell-cultured human breast milk, which can produce more than 2,500 components in human breast milk.

Next to cell-based cultivation, precision fermentation is also opening new doors for novel alt-dairy products including Fooditive’s new vegan casein, Those Vegan Cowboys’ vegan cheese and Eden Brew’s cowless milk. (Source: foodingredientsfirst.com)

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