Israel is a groundbreaking FoodTech powerhouse

From cultured fish to fermented protein: Calcalist and Tnuva's FoodTech competition reaches the semifinal stage

The 20 semifinalists of the FoodTech 2022 competition are attempting to find technological solutions to the problems of the global food market

Over recent years, the Israeli FoodTech industry has made an incredible leap in all possible parameters - technological innovation, areas of research, breaking into new markets, and the scope of investments made in the field by private and state entities. This surge hasn’t occurred in a vacuum, the global demand for food technologies is only increasing due to several global processes: the climate crisis, the war in the Ukraine, and the demand for healthier and more nutritious food.
Dozens of startups and companies submitted their nominations for Tnuva and Calcalist's FoodTech 2022 competition. It seems that the Israeli industry covers almost every possible aspect in the attempt to promote the field and to find technological solutions to deal with global needs and demand: meat substitutes, protein substitutes, supply chain optimization, solutions for farmers, applied AI for marketing food and health products.
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ישראל היא מעצמת פודטק פורצת דרך
ישראל היא מעצמת פודטק פורצת דרך
Israel is a groundbreaking FoodTech powerhouse
Ron Zadok, accompanying accountant of the competition, audit partner and head of FoodTech and AgTech at KPMG Somekh Chaikin, said: "The meat industry is one of the main contributors to the global climate crisis. This is because it consumes huge areas, both for raising the cattle itself and for growing the food to feed them. In addition, it is reaching its limit of production capacity, and is finding it difficult to meet the rising demand in parallel with the increase in the world's population. The multitude of players in the field of plant-based meat substitutes and the maturity of some of them, allow for large investors and strategists to focus and invest more in cultured meat companies.
"While vegetable substitutes are already on the market, a cultured meat substitute is seen by many investors as a product whose path to market is still long, but there is no doubt that a lot of money is going to flow into products of this type in the foreseeable future."
According to Zadok, one of the most significant challenges in the food industry today is the challenge of managing the supply chain: "If, until two years ago, the challenge was mainly managing raw materials, maintaining the freshness and quality of the products, in the last two years we are witnessing new difficulties in the supply chain. In the second half of 2020, there was a sharp increase in prices of maritime transport. Since February 2022, due to the Russia-Ukraine war, a new problem has arisen in the supply of raw materials, mainly grain to food manufacturers. However, the effects of this war are not only visible in raw materials. The energy crisis expected in the coming winter in Europe will also contribute to a significant increase in the cost of production for food manufacturers. These challenges create a situation where more and more countries feel the need for nutritional independence, and FoodTech companies understand this."
Eyal Melis, CEO of the Tnuva Group, noted: "We are witnessing significant changes in the consumer trends and demands from food manufacturers, changes that are intensifying on the backdrop of the events of the past couple of years - a global pandemic, the climate crisis, and the war between Russia and Ukraine, which are all affecting global food security.
"We understand the need for nutritional security at a national and personal level. The food industry is dealing with many challenges and is in a race to create the future supply chain and secure the food security of the consumers and the capabilities of the food industry to contribute to a healthy and better lifestyle. In order to deal with the challenges facing the global food industry, there is a need for multidimensional technology in the foodtech industry that will transform manufacturing methods, and change the way in which we create and consume food - developing solutions for protein substitutes, a source for raw materials, reducing the carbon footprint, improving nutrition by reducing sugar, fat, and sodium, and finding innovative manufacturing systems alongside a smart industry." 
All over the world, large food companies are discovering the field of FoodTech and integrating it into the core of their growth strategy. The world's food systems will have to be much more productive in order to produce enough nutritious foods for a growing population of billions with minimal damage to taste and the need for sustainably.
"According to a report by GFI, Israel is in second place in the world in alternative protein investments after the USA with an investment of $320 million, as of the first half of 2022. This is a 160% increase compared to the first half of 2021. The potential for protein substitutes is enormous as this is the future of our planet and it will define our food plates in about a decade. We at Tnuva continue to deepen and accelerate our hold in the FoodTech industry both through investments by Tnuva Ventures, and through a partnership in the Fresh Start FoodTech incubator in Kiryat Shmona.
Meat and protein substitutes
The variety of Israeli companies that offer solutions and substitutes for meat and protein from plants is large, as is their presence in the FoodTech 2022 competition.
  • BioBetter was founded in 2015 by Prof. Oded Shoseyov, Dr. Dana Yarden, industrialist Avi Tzur and CEO Dr. Amit Yaari. The company is developing a solution to one of the most significant challenges in the field of cultured meat - lowering the costs of the harvest. BioBetter has harnessed the natural advantages of tobacco plants by turning them into large-scale producers of growth factors. The tobacco plant has significant advantages - it grows quickly, accumulates a large mass and is able to provide up to four crops per year. Tobacco easily accepts the transformation of expression systems, and is able to express and produce large and complex proteins. BioBetter grows in open areas that allow a quick, efficient and flexible response to the needs of the market, and do not require any capital investment in infrastructure. In addition, the company has developed an innovative technology for the production and purification of growth factors and hormones from the plant, which simplifies, shortens and significantly reduces the production process.
  • Eggmented Reality, which is a part of the Start-Fresh FoodTech incubator, is in the initial stages of developing a protein that will be produced by yeast, but its functionality will be the same as that obtained from the protein extracted from animal eggs. The company, founded by Dr. Itamar Yadid, Jon Rathauser and Dr. Helit Rozen, leverages computational biology and precise fermentation processes to produce a protein with functionality as good as, or better than, other alternatives that currently exist in the industry.
  • Meala FoodTech is developing a technology that will allow manufacturers of plant-based meat substitutes to offer consumers products with a cleaner footprint (fewer stabilizers) that are more environmentally friendly (less processing of the ingredients), through the removing of stabilizers from meat substitutes by upgrading the properties of existing plant proteins. The company, founded in 2022 by Hadar Ekhoiz Razmovich , Liran Gruda and Dr. Tali Feldman-Sivan, is a portfolio company of The Kitchen and is trying to find a solution for a pain-point in the vegetable protein substitutes market.
  • Egg'n'Up was established in 2021 as a spin-off of the public company SavorEat. They are developing an egg substitute for industrial applications with a 100% clean footprint. The technology includes a unique production process and a herbal formulation that makes it possible to imitate the properties of the egg in a variety of applications - baking, meringue, pasta, mayonnaise - with a clean and vegan footprint. The use of eggs in the industry is complex and causes quite a few problems, from bacteria to difficulties in the supply chain, and Egg'n'Up's product is supposed to reduce the pollution created by eggs. The company, headed by Billy Yanko, aims for the price of its product to be the same as that of eggs and, in the future, even lower.
  • E-FISHient Protein works to produce a cultured tilapia fish, grown in a laboratory using a single fish cell, without harming the fish population and the environment. After the company completes the development of the tilapia fish, it will move on to produce "white" fish in a cultured manner. The first product to be produced is a cultured fish patty, which will probably be a hybrid patty combined with vegetable protein. The company's team, Gilles Gamon, Dana Levin and Dr. Jacob Biran, realized that the world's fish is at its peak productivity, and the extent of its cultivation is very limited, and strives to provide a solution to the problem, and to significantly increase the capacity of fish production in the world, by growing it in a laboratory.
  • ChickP, established in 2019, develops isolated chickpea protein (isolate) with a unique concentration of 90% which should allow for a cleaner taste profile through which it will be possible to develop final food products for the consumer. One of the main obstacles in switching to vegetable proteins stems from the fact that the proteins available today require complex production that make the product highly processed. The solution of the company, founded by Prof. Ram Reifen and Liat Lachish Levy, can reduce the processing needs of existing products and thus make the final product less processed.
  • Exosomm researched and studied the uses of exosomes (nano-components found naturally and in large quantities in breast milk) and developed a unique production process for exosomes from cow's milk, identical in composition to human breast milk. The anti-inflammatory aspects of the exosomes that the company produces have been proven in pre-clinical models - in human cells and in a mouse subject in which intestinal inflammation was induced. This means that it will aid in the production of drugs for intestinal diseases such as Crohn's. The company's team, Netta Garnot, Prof. Shimon Reif, Dr. Regina Golan-Gerstel and chairman Yigal Galli, combine FoodTech and pharma; Its first product is medicinal food - a formula containing exosomes designed to treat patients with metabolic diseases such as chronic inflammatory bowel disease.
Big data and AI in FoodTech
Meat and protein solutions and substitutes are popular today in the FoodTech industry, but they are not the only ones, of course. Hanan Brand, Deputy Director of the Start-up Division at the Innovation Authority, said: "In the coming years we will see very interesting combinations of technologies from the worlds of big data, artificial intelligence, robotics, internet of things, engineering and biology (bioconvergence) which together will create disruptions that are difficult for us to imagine today.
"And still, the Israeli FoodTech sector has additional potential for technological growth, by adopting and adapting strong and advanced technologies in Israel such as AI, ML, Big Data, Industry 4.0 into the FoodTech industry, for the development and research of new products and materials, improvement and automation of production processes, procurement, supply chains and the like."
  • Agroscout, established in 2017, develops a business intelligence system for analyzing the agricultural supply chain. The company has a technological system designed for food companies, farmers and large farm owners, which collects agricultural information from the fields, processes and analyzes it with the help of artificial intelligence tools, image processing from the field, drone photos and satellite photos, and paints a situational picture of the fields, including the detection and identification of risk factors such as diseases and pests, fertilization, and irrigation problems. The company, founded by Simcha Shore, has pivoted in the past two years, to work more and more with food producers instead of with farmers.
  • MAMAY Technologies has developed a computerized (digital) system to create a uniform and objective language for organoleptic description that helps in product development. Costs of building a product and its accuracy to the relevant target audience take away resources from food companies. A system that will give an accurate prediction about the success of a product even before the development process begins, will save food companies a lot of time and money. According to the vision of the company's executives, Yuval Klein, Dr. Michael Zviely, Keren Corley, Tidhar Tsuri and Gadi Bober, the manufacturer will enter the components of their formula into the system, and based on a series of tests, the algorithm will process the components and their concentration into numerical data describing the strength of the taste in each parameter.
  • Watersight develops a sensor for monitoring the quality and safety of water, and liquids in general. The company's software enables water corporations to have better control over the use of water and its quality, and large manufacturers to make sure that the quality of the water used is correct and that they are not losing water in vain. The founders of the company, Eli Asulin and Eyal Yatskan, have been carrying out a successful PoC with the Mekorot water company for the past two years.
  • TODOS Technologies develops sensors and a system for monitoring freshness and predicting the shelf life of fresh fruits and vegetables. The sensor developed by the company is installed in the refrigeration house or container and can monitor three types of gasses, temperature and humidity; The information obtained makes it possible to monitor the level of freshness of the fruits and vegetables along with the logistics chain and to route surfaces according to the level of ripeness of the fruit and vegetables, and to reduce the destruction of the fruits due to over-ripeness. The founders, Shmuel Melman, Yossi Levi, and Prof. Yael Nemirovsky, aim to reduce the amount of agricultural produce that is destroyed and improve the quality of the product that the consumer receives.
  • Tastewise engages in monitoring and analyzing trends and consumer insights through social networks to help food and beverage professionals find relevant information about trends and changes happening in the market, improve the development process of new products, as well as build marketing strategies and accelerate sales in retail and restaurants. The company, founded by Alon Chen and Eyal Gaon, can help companies adapt their products to a changing customer base and changing tastes with the help of an artificial intelligence-based system. 90% of the new products in the food market fail after about 18 months of development and marketing, and the accuracy in adapting the products to the market using the data reduces the development time and prevents food waste.
  • Kitchen Robotics has developed a robot for restaurants that can prepare hot and cold dishes for 80% of the restaurant's menu, about 60 dishes per hour, and in a very wide variety of styles (Italian, Indian, Asian, salads and more). The robot washes the tools it uses, significantly reducing the cost of wages and food waste. The founders, Yair Gordin and Ofer Zinger, aim to solve several significant problems in the catering world: a significant lack of working hands, kitchen efficiency and saving energy and water.
Clean production
Protecting the environment during food production and reducing food waste is an additional area that is gaining momentum in the FoodTech industry. The need for clean and environmentally friendly production processes encourages quite a few entrepreneurs to attack chronic problems in the food industry through innovative and technological angles that were not possible until now.
  • Entoprotech treats organic food waste in a circular way, and produces quality protein from it. The company's protein makes it possible to reduce the need for protein powder produced from fish, thereby reducing the burden on the world's fisheries, which causes great damage to the environment. Entoprotech, founded in 2019 by Alexander Babitsky, advocates a circular economy and uses insects (the black soldier fly) to treat by-products and organic waste generated along the food production chain. The materials are used as a breeding ground for flies, from which high value products are produced: protein and fat for animal feed, organic fertilizer, antibacterial substances and more. The company develops sustainable solutions that prevent waste of resources such as nutrients, water, land and environmental damage such as soil pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.
  • FeedU aims to reduce food waste in Israel and the world and to strengthen the circular economy of food while using technological tools to strengthen the food rescue system, encouraging responsible food consumption and increasing awareness of food waste. The company's solutions, founded by Yahav Montgomery and Omer Sharon, include, among others, a digital system for managing the food rescue chain and locating and coordinating food rescue between the food industry and non-profit organizations. FeedU also enables sharing meals between neighbors and donations for low income communities and non-profits/hospitals in real time.
  • Beyond oil, which is traded on the Canadian stock exchange, has developed a mineral-based powder approved for contact with food, which absorbs harmful substances formed in the frying of oil. Adding the powder to the frying oil at the end of the day and filtering it, makes it possible to extend the shelf life of the frying oil from 2-3 days to up to two weeks and prevent its waste. Jonathan Or is responsible for the development of the technology in collaboration with his father Pinhas Or, as well as Michal Werner and Dr. Tamir Gedo. The powder is intended for use in institutional deep fryers that use reusable oil after filtering it. The oil produces a very large amount of wastewater and the company can reduce an unutilized part by offering a more efficient use of oil.
  • Agwa Farm has developed a home facility for growing vegetables autonomously, based on capsules that contain seeds, an automatic watering and fertilizing system controlled by sensors and cameras to monitor pH, air and water temperature, humidity, lighting, the fertilizer mix and water flow. The company founded by Alon Wallach and Niv Stolarski, monitors and processes the information in a way that is adapted to each plant at an agronomic level by combining artificial intelligence that occupies an increasing percentage in the process. The result for the user is fresh vegetables, free of chemicals, at home throughout the year. The user receives the materials, seeds and recommendations for how to grow and harvest - for a fixed monthly fee.
Health on a plate
The health trend and the awareness of the medical dangers as a result of excessive consumption of sugars or fats in the Western world, and the need for products with more effective nutritional values for the inhabitants of the third world, push FoodTech entrepreneurs to present groundbreaking developments in the field. In this category as well, several promising candidates entered the list of contestants in the 2022 FoodTech competition by Tnuva and Calcalist.
  • B.T. Sweet develops a product used to replace and reduce plant-based sugar, which has the same taste and body profile as sugar and can be used in a wide variety of food products. The product allows sugar replacement or reduction as needed from 1% to 100%. The founders, Dagi Pekatch, Yoel Benesh and Gili De Picchu, and the CEO Picchuto, are trying to provide a solution to one of the largest problems of the Western world - obesity, that results from an incorrect and high-sugar diet. The company's solution makes it possible to reduce sugar consumption without harming the dining experience. The product is rich in dietary fiber (without sucrose) and provides an important health value with half the calories and no glycemic value.
  • Sweet Balance offers a natural sugar substitute, with a clean label that has few ingredients. The uniqueness of the product is in a specific adjustment through a combination of ingredients for a specific customer and a specific product, so that 50%-80% of the sugar is replaced without harming the taste or texture of the product. The company's team - which was established in November 2021 and is part of the Start Fresh incubator - includes Dr. Danny Dizer, Yoav Dagan, Batia Hassidov and Kami Hason Dror, and develops different formulas for each client; its business plan is to focus on five sectors - soft drinks, plant-based protein products, yogurt, cereal for children and regular cereal.
  • Rapido Food Art has developed a solution for the simple and quick preparation of nutritious meals, in the office or at home, by adding hot water and using a microwave or a special plastic container. The meals are made from high-quality raw materials, with a clean footprint, the ingredients are freeze-dried and therefore retain their original taste and maximum nutritional value. The company, which was founded by Danny Heker and Assaf Burstein, has a menu of 12 meals weighing 400 grams that are produced in Ashdod at a rate of 15-20 thousand portions per month, and distributed in hotels in Israel that have introduced them as a service to customers in the rooms. Soon the meals will also be provided to hospital workers.