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In an increasingly global world, solutions and new product ideas can come from anywhere. Israel is fast becoming a hub for start-ups companies who are disrupting the innovation landscape across a number of industries, including F&B. We talked to Amir Zaidman, VP Business Development at the Kitchen FoodTech Hub, who will be joining us at the Future of Nutrition Summit to spotlight some of the most exciting companies and projects coming out of the region.
Can you briefly explain about The Kitchen Hub and the work it does?
The Kitchen FoodTech Hub (www.TheKitchenHub.com), or The Kitchen, is a seed investor and a technological incubator. We support early stage technological ventures that are solving major issues of the F&B industry, across the entire value chain. When we accept a company into the incubator, we commit an investment of between $550K and $750K, and we generate a support plan for the company that’s synchronized with the company’s work plan. A new venture will only be accepted into The Kitchen if it has a viable plan for reaching a significant value-creating milestone given the limited amount of time and money the incubator program provides.
The Kitchen is Israel’s only FoodTech incubator. It’s owned by the Strauss-Group (www.strauss-group.com), a multi-national food company, and is part of the Israeli government’s Incubators Program (http://www.matimop.org.il/Incubators.html).
The ventures we invest in and nurture are cutting-edge technology startups that make the world’s food value chain more productive, affordable, sustainable and healthy. We address global food challenges by harnessing Israel’s renowned innovation ecosystem. In addition to a capital investment, incubator ventures receive close mentorship and support from the incubator’s team, from experts within the Strauss-Group and others.
Why is Israel so strong in F&B innovation?
Israel is known as “the startup nation” with great technologies and an entrepreneurial culture. Israel is a land of scarce resources, so since the beginning of the state of Israel, we have been forced to find out-of-the-box solutions for our needs. One very good example is the invention of drip-irrigation as a solution for the local dry climate.
Israeli entrepreneurs often look to solve big problems that have a major effect on humanity. In the past decade, people started realizing that food-related issues can have a drastic effect on people, from the obesity epidemic through to environmental impacts of the food supply chain and all the way to food security issues. Technological breakthroughs can provide solutions to many of these issues, this is what we call FoodTech.
There is a lot of innovation within the F&B industry coming out of Israel at the moment. How does it compare to other countries in the region? And to Europe?
Israeli entrepreneurs are very quick to adapt to new fields. During the past five years, FoodTech emerged as a legitimate startup sector and Israel was very fast to get on board. For example, one of the major issues the industry is facing is over-consumption of sugar. DouxMatok, Unavoo and Amai Proteins are some of the startups that have set a goal to find innovative solutions for this problem. Each company is taking a different approach and has a proprietary technology. It was recently announced that DouxMatok has successfully raised a financing round of over $8M. I believe that Israel is a leader in FoodTech innovation.
Can you highlight some of the companies or products that are changing the industry at the moment?
We see Israeli FoodTech companies disrupting different aspects of the F&B industry. I’ve already mentioned some of the companies that are combating the excessive consumption of sugar. Another area is plant-based dairy replacements where we see Yofix Probiotics providing the first real “clean label” vegan yogurt, which is pre- and pro-biotic and contains only five ingredients. In the area of food safety, BactuSense is shortening the time it takes to detect food contamination from days to minutes. Deep Learning Robotics is making it easy for F&B companies to adopt robotic solutions for increased manufacturing efficiency and reduced costs. Another Israeli company, TIPA-Corp, is revolutionizing the packaging segment by providing fully compostable bio-based food packages. Finally, DayTwo, which provides personal nutrition recommendations based on a person’s micro-biome (gut bacteria), a truly revolutionary new frontier in the area of improved nutrition. And the list goes on; these are just a few examples.
Are there any companies to watch out for in the future?
I believe that the area of alternative proteins is going to have a major effect on the food industry. There are two companies that are important to note: Flying Spark is developing novel proteins for human consumption made from fruit flies. The company claims that this protein’s nutritional value is superior to other alternatives, cost effective and environmentally friendly. Meat the Future takes a very different approach to providing high-quality proteins and operates in an area called “clean meat” or “cultured meat.” In this case, a sample of cells taken from a cow is grown in bio-reactors to produce a meat product without having to slaughter the animal.
What are your predictions for the F&B industry in 5+ years’ time?
The area of “cellular agriculture” in which we cultivate cells rather than farm animals is very exciting and I think it holds great promise for the future. Companies like Meat the Future are going to completely change the way we grow our food and introduce much safer and more sustainable methods. Food waste is another very serious issue that needs to be addressed. 35% of the food produced in western countries is being thrown away. I believe technology will help us get much better at preserving our food and producing only what we are going to eat.