by Yehudit Haspel Ben-Dak
Israel’s Food Tech revolution is just starting, making a way out of the lab to the dining tables. The Food tech industry is one of the most vibrant and forward-thinking ecosystems. It makes the Startup Nation an attractive innovation hub, promoting collaboration and investments from some of the world’s largest food companies, including Mondelez, Tyson Foods, Nestle, Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Mars, Danone, Unilever, AB InBev, Starbucks, PepsiCo, and Heineken.
According to IVC report, about 700 companies in Israel identify as food tech companies, 135 of which have been established in the last three years alone.
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Worldwide the meat substitutes take a share of only 1%. Israel is number 2 globaly in the number of players involved in this market.
According to Report by Invest In Israel:
1 – The country’s history saw long periode of time food and water scarcity. This frightening situation produced a desire for better culinary and agricultural creativity, consequently stimulating the knowledge and development of superior scientific and technological expertise.
2 – Technology transfer culture. Israel is home to some of the world’s first academic technology transfer companies, with a strong link between the academic and commercial sectors and an advanced technology transfer infrastructure.
3 – Israel’s cuisine culture is influenced by the presence of numerous immigrant communities, which demand a diverse range of flavors and a unique willingness to experiment with new ones.
4 – The Israeli consumer chalnge the local chefs with a refined palate, willing to pay a premium for high-quality food.
The Israel Cultured Meat boom
The animal-based food industry is one of the most polluting sectors of the global economy, accounting for no less than 14.5 percent of greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming.
Israel’s Foof Tech revolution made the country a world leader in the fields of Cultured Meat (actual meat created in a laboratory) and Fermentation (a procedure used to manufacture microorganisms). Of cours, there is still opportunity for growth and development. We are just making our first steps.
SavorEat founded in 2018, is listed on Tel Aviv stock Exchange (TASE). The founders come up with a new idea: serving a slice of vegan meat infront the customer sees and smells a robot device cook it infront of his eyes. The company has raised $17.5 million. (Read an intervew with the company co-founder and CEO Racheli Vizman)
The newest startup in the cultured meat market is ProFuse Technology, which grew a real steak in the lab by accident. It happened as part of a study on muscle tissue regeneration in Weizmann Institute’s technology. Surprisingly the scientists have found a steak growing in their petri dish.
The transfer arm, Yeda Research and Development Company, has granted the ProFuse exclusive rights to this technology and to the patent covering this research.
Future Meat Technologies’ method involves rapidly growing connective tissue cells, known as fibroblasts, to reach high densities before converting them to cultured muscle and healthy fats.
Future meat, launched in 2018, is now at the forefront of a fast-growing, multi-billion-dollar industry. In December 2021, Future Meat announced that it raised $347 million in Series B funds, the most significant single fundraising to date for a cultured meat company.
Future Meat Technologies’ primary objective is to supply hardware and cell lines to cultured meat companies rather than sell food directly to consumers.
Although they are not yet in the final stages of meat production, the giant Swiss conglomerate, Nestlé, leaped into the cultured meat industry. The Swiss food giant says it is “closely monitoring” the trend and now kickstarting research with Future Meat.
Redefine meat, founded in 2018, is vegan 3D-printed meat that offers ground meat, burgers and sausages, lamb flank, and more. According to the company, the items are manufactured from chickpeas protein, soy, beetroot, and coconut fat and are high in protein, cholesterol-free, and look, cook, feel, and taste just like the real thing.
In Jan 2022, Redefine Meat has raised $135 million, which brings the total amount raised by the company to $180 million. The products are currently available in 200 restaurants in Israel.
MeaTech steaks are made entirely of muscle and fat cells, just like a farm-raised steak.
This Israeli lab-grown meat had successfully manufactured the world’s largest slice of 3.67 oz (104-gram) cultured meat steak from stem cells to muscle fibers.
The company promises to provide a sustainable solution for beef, poultry, and pork, raw materials, and whole cuts.
SuperMeat founded in 2015 with the mission to bring chicken meat, grown directly from cells. The thecnology is based on a study by Professor Yaakov Nachmias of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
The compay has raised $4.2 million to date.
The fish & Shrimps alternatives market
The sea is the primary source of pollution, with fish destroyed several times that of cows, chickens, and sheep combined. No less than 170 countries are expected to face significant unmet demand for protein from the sea.
While companies are already dealing with cultured meat, there aren’t as many companies coping with fish production. There are no products that replicate fish fillets and create equivalent textures and structures. Still, there are at least ten companies worldwide dealing with fish substitutes. Six are vegan replacements. Four are using fish cells to produce seafood and shrimps.
In 2021, the first five Israeli fish companies founded. Four are creating lab-grown cultured fish: E-Fishient, Wanda Fish, Sea2Cell, and Forsea. Plantish is the only one developing plant-based Salmon.
None of the companies has a complete product yet. It will take them a year to a year and a half to show prototypes.
First was Plantish, which was founded in March 2021. Plantish is 3D-print plant-based Salmon that replicates the sea fish fillet. In Jan 2022, the company introduced a prototype for a glance, using its proprietary method.
The first fillet was boneless. It had a visible structure and resembled real Salmon but was free of the contaminants in regular fillets, such as mercury, hormones, microplastics, and antibiotics.
The Salmon fillet is made from legume proteins and algae extracts and contains the same amount of omega fats and B vitamins as ordinary Salmon – one of the world’s most popular fish.
The company has raised $2 million pre-seed.
E-Fishient was founded in April 2021 in collaboration between BioMeat and the Vulcan Institute to grow tilapia cells without animal serum.
The company is located in the first lab in Israel to generate gene-edited food-fish successfully. One of the few facilities globally has successfully developed genetically modified tilapia by employing gene editing.
Tilapia is the most popular fish in Israel, accounts for 50% of all fish marketed in the country, with a global market worth $13-15 billion and expanding at a rate of 3% to 7% yearly.
In two pre-seed rounds, the company has raised NIS 2 million ($1 = 3.3) and committed NIS 3 million more.
Food Tech revolution includes many and varied categories. ViAqua which founded in 2014, aims to protect shrimp from viral epidemics like the widespread and deadly White Spot Syndrome Virus.
Because of the high mortality rates caused by this virus, shrimp growers have suffered financially devastating losses of up to 100% within five days of infection. It has affected shrimp populations for over two decades, but little or no progress has been made toward finding a cure.
Using an encapsulated non-GMO RNA molecule, ViAqua’s technology has the ability to inhibit specific viral gene expressions, which disables viral infections in shrimp.
Projected losses in global shrimp production due to viral infections like WSSV are estimated to be $3 billion per year.
The Company has raised $4.5 round to commercialize and expand its platform, led by S2G Ventures (S2G Oceans & Seafood Fund)
Sea2Cell, founded in September 2021, is developing technology for raising cultured fish by growing fish cells in vitro. The company is developing a vast stem cell manufacturing capacity to license other companies to manufacture the products. At this stage, the company targets blue Tuna.
The company has raised NIS 3.5 million ($1 = 3.3).
Forsea was founded in October 2021 in collaboration with Kitchen Hub Incubator to establish a platform for supplying the world with seafood.
The company intends to cultivate eels for the Japanese market, regarded as a delicacy. The species, which is in danger of extinction, is in growing demand among restaurant owners worldwide. Prices have increased fivefold in recent years, and their scarcity presents an opportunity.
The company has raised NIS 3 million ($1 = 3.3) from Israel’s Innovation Authority. It anticipates launching its products in 2025.
The youngest company is Wanda Fish, which was founded in November 2021. The company is based in the Kitchen Foodtech Hub, aiming to produce a cell-based fish fillet.
Wanda Fish aims to manufacture natural fish fillets by collecting cell samples, growing muscle and fat tissues on a bed of plant fluid, and establishing a sample bank.
“Following wars, we develop fish tissues to replicate the shape of a thick fillet with a genuine fish flavor. For instance, if it is a salmon, it will be pink with white stripes,” told the founder Daphna Hefets to Globes.
Wanda has not yet determined which fish species will be developed.
The company has raised NIS 3 million ($1 = 3.3) from the Israel Innovation Authority.