With climate change and population growth on the rise, the food industry has finally made some much-needed changes after years of relative conservatism. Nowadays, the industry is filled with innovation, groundbreaking patent applications, and the development of new ways to produce food. Whether it be to improve and produce food that is more efficient, healthier, and less harmful to the environment than traditional methods of food production, the industry is finally incorporating new technologies. And Israel is at the forefront of it all, leading the world in FoodTech and alternative protein inventions.
As Israel’s leading institution in Food-Tech, the Hebrew University boasts many established and up-and-coming startups in the food industry, as they have the only university faculty of agriculture in all of Israel. Until now, over half a billion dollars have been invested in alternative protein companies that were established based on research from the Hebrew University. Yissum, which is the University’s Tech Transfer company, founded to protect and commercialize their intellectual property, supports the Hebrew University’s researchers’ cutting-edge technologies by enabling them to take their inventions to the marketplace.
Yesterday, the annual FoodTech conference, which was put on by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment, took place. It is a vital opportunity for networking and exploring the technologies of world-leading researchers and startups while also providing a place for investors to see what the future of Food Tech is now.
The demand for plant-based foods is on the rise, yet the food industry is struggling to keep up and provide protein alternatives that are more sustainable and simulate the taste and texture of conventional meat. On the flip side, producing alternative proteins that are economically viable yet still deliver high nutritional value is not easy.
Here are some Israeli companies working toward alternative proteins.
ChickP has created a new standard of pure protein which is vegetable-based and non-allergenic. ChickP utilizes the high functionality of chickpeas as a protein isolate, adjusting the flavour in order to use it across an endless list of applications from meat and dairy-like foods to drinks.
Nevo Mazor, Marketing Manager at ChickP said, “ChickP is an innovative Food-Tech Startup, a pioneer in plant-based protein. Thanks to our unique IP-protected process, we are the first and only company in the world to offer Next-Gen chickpea protein isolate. Our products offer all the benefits of plant protein, without the downside - non-GMO, non-allergenic, neutral flavor, highly nutritious, and highly functional. We were proud to take part in this conference and to present ourselves as part of the ground-breaking ventures that started their way at The Hebrew University and as part of the food tech scene that is thriving in our country.”
ChickP was founded in 2016 by Prof. Ram Reifen of the Hebrew University. The startup now has 10 employees.
The demand for plant-based, 3D-printed food is on the brink of a boom. The global Food 3D Printing Market Size was at $226.2 million in 2021 and is projected to reach $15.1 billion by 2031. SavorEat creates plant-based products. Their meatless food is created and cooked by a robot chef, according to the consumer’s preferences. SavorEat achieves this through 3D-printed technology and unique non-GMO plant-based ingredients. Their technology takes plant-based food production one step further, providing sustainable food alternatives without compromising on taste.
SavorEat was founded in 2018 by Prof. Ido Braslavsky, Mrs. Racheli Vizman, and Prof. Oded Shoseyov. The company now has 32 employees and is located in Rehovot, Israel.
Aquaculture has many harmful environmental consequences that are pushing researchers to discover alternative methods for the cultivation of seafood. Aquaculture produces drug and chemical residues; introduces non-native diseases and parasites to once-clean locations; results in the escape of non-native species; and causes unnatural amounts of fish waste and uneaten food. Furthermore, health problems are of high concern in this industry since the industrially produced feed causes antibiotics, hormones, anesthetics, and pigments to find their way into the food and species. Additionally, the introduction of non-native species to other ecosystems and natural environments can cause safety issues. Consequently, cultivated seafood is the only solution to meet the growing demand for seafood, which is growing at a CAGR of 2.9% over an analysis period of 2020-2027.
These Israeli startups are fighting that particular fight.
ForSea’s unique technology platform produces seafood meat similarly to the way nature does, in a simpler and more cost-effective production process than aquaculture. The pluripotent stem cells that ForSea uses divide faster than adult progenitor cells, enabling an even faster growth ability with a scalable organoid technology that allows the use of a smaller number of bioreactors.
ForSea was founded by Roee Nir and Dr. Yaniv Elkouby in 2021. The company is located in Ashdod and has 12 employees.
Sea2Cell’s unique technology produces cultivated fish meat. Instead of raising fish in ponds or fish farms, the company grows fish cells in huge tanks. They then use those cells to make chunks of fish.
Sea2Cell was founded in 2021 by Dr. Orna Harel and Prof. Berta Levavi-Sivan. It is based in Kiryat Shmona with 7 employees.
EverBlue Labs is producing the world’s first zero-discharge, zero-waste fish farm technology. With funding from the Ministry of Agriculture in Israel and individual investors, EverBlue Labs is working on installing its first pilot project. EverBlue’s sustainable technology doesn’t require the wasteful use of land or water, so it offers fish farmers a better solution that is non-polluting and yet is also protected from environmental changes. Their closed system treats fish wastewater, recycling it back into the ecosystem, eliminating the need for the huge input and output of water every day. Fish farmers today are facing a future of small profit margins due to lower efficiency and higher costs. This problem will only increase in the future and EverBlue Labs provides the solution.
EverBlue Labs was founded in 2022 by Snir Azaria (CEO). “I grew up on a farm, so I have been acutely aware my entire life how essential water is to everything. Putting EverBlue research to the market will enable us to put our research into practice and make the huge environmental strides we know we can achieve,” said Azaria. “The Hebrew University’s FoodTech conference has been the perfect opportunity to network with other influential researchers and with the business development professionals at Yissum.”
While global demand for milk and milk ingredients is on the rise, conventional production methods will encounter many difficulties due to the worldwide climate crisis. Similar predictions and concerns can be seen when referring to breast milk. Considering an annual 1.1% global population growth, we’ll very soon be looking at a worldwide breast milk shortage.
Wilk produces animal and human milk ingredients for various purposes: human milk ingredients for babies, daily dairy consumption, healthy diets, and even the extrapolation of milk’s nutritional components for uses in the pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries. They produce cell-based milk secreted from mammary epithelial cells, which are found in the mammary glands of both humans and animals. Wilk has been granted a patent in the U.S., for the methodology of producing in vitro cell cultured milk.
Wilk, founded in 2020 by Arik Kaufman, Nurit Argov, and Yaron Kaiser, is located in Rehovot and has 16 employees. “Participating in the Hebrew University’s Food Tech conference has been phenomenal proof of how academia and industry can work together to bring vital solutions to world problems,” said Rachelle Neumann, CMO of Wilk. “It has been delightful to see the interest in Wilk’s products. The significant world shortages of breastmilk pose significant dangers to babies. Neonatal hospital wards worldwide face significant challenges when caring for preterm babies for whom breast milk’s medicinal values can double survival rates. We want to provide better ingredients to infant formulas, that are closer to real breastmilk, for those cases in which women can’t breastfeed. Also, Wilk is working on the first concept yogurt in the world made with bovine cell culture milk fat, overcoming the challenges of farming livestock for milk. This will move the alternative dairy industry beyond simple plant-based options. The Hebrew University’s conference has provided us with the perfect opportunity to network with other FoodTech industry leaders.”
The world demand for cultivated meat is anticipated to surge by more than 66% by 2060, which will boost the need for cultured meat due to its lower greenhouse gas emission and other environmental effects. Cultivated meat uses a fraction of the natural resources used by conventional meat and does not require raising or slaughtering animals because the initial sourced cells grow indefinitely, meaning cultivated meat can feed the growing global population indefinitely.
Future Meat Technologies
Future Meat is developing sustainable, ethical, and tasty cultivated meat for widespread production. Following its Series B fundraising round, Future Meat is accelerating its commercialization goals with a plan to build a U.S. production facility in the coming year. As a testament to market viability, Future Meat is the first cultivated meat company to break the $5 cost barrier by bringing their production cost down to only $1.70. Their proprietary technology reaches yields that are 10 times higher than industrial standards thanks to the unique media rejuvenation process which allows animal cells to flourish.
Future meat was founded in 2018 by Stepan Snajdar and Yaakov Nahmias. Now based in Rehovot, Future Meat employs 91 people.
There is huge flexitarian, vegetarian and vegan market demands that the food industry is under pressure to meet while still providing high nutritional values.
Kinoko’s ecologically friendly growing system produces a variety of high-end tasty products which address the demands of these fast-growing markets. All their products are allergen-free, gluten-free, cholesterol-free, and non-GMO. They do so with a unique fermentation platform allowing the growth of superfoods in a new way. Using plants and fungi, their product is rich in protein and unique dietary fibers and contains all 9 essential amino acids to create a complete protein, all with delicious flavour and aroma.
Kinoko was founded in 2019 by Jasmin Ravid and is based in Rehovot with 11 employees.
Yesterday's conference was a huge success. When we spoke to Ilya Pittel, VP of Business Development at Yissum, he said, “There is a lot of know-how in Israel in food technology, and the talent and innovation displayed at the Hebrew University’s conference today are proof of this. While showcasing future food products, the event also hosted food tech industry professionals, researchers, professors, entrepreneurs, and academics. Startups have become the growth engine of the food industry, and Yissum’s innovative startups who attended the conference are working to accelerate this innovation – helping to overcome the challenges of the food industry and launching new products into the global market.”