Truffles are one of the rarest and luxurious ingredients out there to help spice up your kitchen, and there are good reasons for that prestige (although not necessarily positive ones): World population has significantly increased, leading to new markets wanting to consume high-end products, while at the same time, Europe’s black winter truffle is on a one-way ticket towards extinction, following human impact and more rampant growing fungi.
When demand goes up and supply falls - the price rises, and today, 1kg of truffles goes on the market for between $1,200-$2,000 and rising. However, Israeli agtech startup ILSAR claims to have cracked the truffle code and can grow it using new technologies, setting up Israel as a new exporter of the valuable and luxurious fungi.
Truffles for acres
ILSAR developed a system for growing and cultivating truffles. Starting with a lab where the truffle spores bind to a mix of oak seedlings and hazelnuts. After the lab, the seedlings are moved to a greenhouse until they are finally moved to the ground, simulating natural growth. If you want to make the trip, the company is already operational on over 100 acres up in the Golan Heights, with plans to expand by the end of the year.
CEO and co-founder Nimrod Tabenkin explains in a chat with Geektime that because truffles are delicate and very hard to grow, ILSAR developed a Blockchain-like process, “which allows growers to monitor and verify the quality of the micro seedling from a spore, throughout the entire growth cycle, and picking, packing, and shipping processes.” He notes that the company uses Big Data to tag each seedling with all of its relevant info, including seed source, spore source, genetic measurements, lab readings, and proper care protocol.
Many around the world are attempting to find a way to control black truffle growth, but according to ILSAR, only 15% of global plantations are successful in providing yield after 5-8 years from spore to package. Only by using Big Data has the company found the right biological symbiosis and connection between the root and fungi of the black winter truffle.
ILSAR was founded in 2011 by chairman Yoel Givol, CEO Nimrod Tabenkin, and CTO Tal Monchase, and employ a team of 10 at the Golan Heights-based lab. Today (Monday), the startup closed a $5 million Series A funding rounf, led by AP Partners. The company said that the funds will be used towards advancing practical research and additional cultivation technologies, in order to become a dominating force in the global truffle market.