The growing world population has increased the global demand and production of food, including livestock products. However, the consumption of animal products has become a source of negative impacts on the environment and, according to some, on health.
Research from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) shows that the livestock industry is leading to an exacerbation of climate change, water pollution and wasted resources. About 18 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions are from livestock, putting us in danger of exceeding the limit of 565 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide by 2030. In addition, pollution from the Water and waste caused by fodder and livestock production are major obstacles to preserving the environment.
To combat the adverse effects of livestock systems and reduce the population’s dependence on livestock, the Israeli Food Tech incubator The Kitchen Hub has sought to leverage its resources to cultivate sustainable innovations in the food industry.
SEE ALSO: Israeli Aleph Farms Raise $ 105 Million For Cultured, No-Slaughter Meat
The Kitchen was founded in 2015 as a seed investor in food and beverage focused startups in collaboration with Strauss-Group, one of the largest international food manufacturers based in Israel. The incubator provides both physical infrastructure such as offices and laboratories as well as technological and commercial support, thus providing startups with both the scientific resources and the commercial connections necessary for development.
Since NoCamels’ last interview with The Kitchen in 2019, the business has seen both change and rapid growth.
On a large scale, The Kitchen will no longer be the only incubator operating in the food technology sector in Israel. Another company has emerged as a participant in the Israel Innovation Authority’s incubator program to serve start-ups located in northern Israel. As the addition of another incubator brings competition into the business landscape, The Kitchen sees it as an opportunity.
“Competition between incubators is especially valuable for entrepreneurs and startups looking for development, as they now have a wider range of resources to choose from,” said Amir Zaidman, vice president of business development at The Kitchen, to NoCamels in a recent interview. “This also allows us to continue to optimize our services and to compete for the best incubator-win”, he adds.
At a more micro level, the incubator’s portfolio has grown from 12 companies to 19 companies since 2019.
The startups in The Kitchen’s portfolio are chosen through a rigorous screening process by the team at The Kitchen, which specifically seeks out Israeli food technology companies that aim to address some of the food industry’s biggest challenges through innovative technological approaches.
Highlights from The Kitchen’s portfolio
Efforts to find alternative sources of protein are a booming area in the food technology industry, says Zaidman, as many startups have experimented with different sources of protein, including plants, algae, fungi, and cells. of living creatures.
One of The Kitchen’s most famous holding companies working on the production of alternative proteins is said to be Israeli cultured meat startup Aleph Farms, which relies on mimicking the natural process of muscle tissue regeneration in controlled environments. .
“The process is done by first obtaining a biopsy from a cattle and then gradually growing cells in the biopsy sample, forming meat tissue for consumption,” Zaidman explains.
Aleph Farms has just successfully raised $ 105 million in a Series B funding round for its market entry next year, validating its joint efforts with The Kitchen to make slaughter-less meat production a reality.
Some of the more recent alternative protein startups that have joined The Kitchen’s portfolio include Israeli animal-free dairy maker Imagindairy, which specializes in using biotechnology to replicate proteins in animal dairy products without actually consuming of milk.
Founded by Israeli researchers at Tel Aviv University in collaboration with food technology entrepreneur Dr Eyal Iffergan, Imagindairy has developed a process of reengineering microorganisms in dairy products to extract proteins identical to those in animal milk. and produce animal-free dairy products such as cheese, yogurt and fluid milk.
Another new entry in The Kitchen’s portfolio is Israeli alternative protein producer YEAP, which is looking at natural yeast proteins for application in the alternative meat industry. With the high nutritional values of yeast proteins and its ability to optimize the flavor of meat, the startup plans to eventually sell its technology to other alternative meat manufacturers, including Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, Zaidman said.
These companies join existing protein-focused startups Flying SpArk, a developer of insect-based protein sources, and Rilbite, which offers a ground meat alternative with an extremely short list of ingredients.
Zero Egg, the developer of a vegan egg substitute and also a holding company, last raised $ 5 million in Series A funding right after making its debut in the U.S. market. And award-winning company Yofix, a maker of vegan, soy-free, fermented plant-based prebiotic and probiotic alternatives, is already successfully sold in Israel under the brand name ONLY.
How the pandemic affected food technology
Thinking back to the pandemic, Zaidman thinks she has once again stressed the importance of an improved food supply and production chain.
Virus outbreaks in food factories, for example, “have shown that better automation of the food production process is essential,” Zaidman said, noting that The Kitchen’s portfolio startup, Deep Learning Robotics, has the potential. integrate robots into food manufacturing procedures.
Another startup in the portfolio, Bio-Fence, has also spotted new applications of its technology in the wake of the pandemic.
As a startup striving to produce antimicrobial and antiviral coatings, Bio-Fence has actively worked with The Kitchen in its development process and now sells its products to its customers. The startup plans to use its product in public spaces such as food factories, classrooms and public transportation to combat the remaining effects of the pandemic and prevent future viral outbreaks.
Israeli startup Inspecto, meanwhile, is developing a new portable nanoscale detector for contaminants in food, and Prevera is working on a new patented disinfection solution to remove microbial contaminations in water purification applications. , food and beverage production and packaging.
A focus on health and sustainability
“The pandemic is also drawing attention to the benefits of maintaining a healthy lifestyle for strengthening our immune system,” suggests Zaidman.
Other notable portfolio companies striving to provide healthier or more sustainable food include culinary startup ANINA, a developer of ready-to-cook meals made from ‘ugly’ products (to reduce food waste). ), healthy snack producer Torr FoodTech, Vanilla Vida, a technology-driven startup that helps grow vanilla more efficiently to increase yield and lower prices, Better Juice, the developer of a unique enzyme technology that reduces the calorie and sugar content of fruit juices and which recently raised $ 8 million in funding, and Amai Proteins (Amai means sweet in Japanese), a food tech startup that has developed a healthier sugar substitute made from protein.
SEE ALSO: Israeli Food Tech Startup Amai Proteins Replaces Sugar With Healthy, Sweet Protein
Zaidman concludes that The Kitchen will continue to invest in and support the most innovative and disruptive food technology startups in Israel that tackle the biggest challenges in the areas of environmental sustainability, food security, healthier food options and of efficient food manufacturing.
“There’s a lot to do in the food value chain, and we believe innovative tech startups would provide us with the best candidates to make an impact and disrupt the food industry,” he says. “Together, we will provide solutions for consumers who can count on more sustainable, safe and reliable food systems. “
The Kitchen is also currently collaborating with Givaudan, a Swiss multinational manufacturer of flavors, fragrances and cosmetic ingredients, to launch a call for startups in the field of natural food ingredients with a focus on energy, sleep , gut health and immunity.
The initiative would equip the selected startups with both The Kitchen’s professional team and Givaudan’s global experts and stakeholders to grow their network. Startups will also have the opportunity to co-develop and market their solutions with Givaudan and gain rapid entry into the Swiss / EU market.
Companies are looking for early stage startups working on natural and sustainable food ingredients and processes, and solutions with disruptive ideas that would have a positive impact on consumers and the environment.