Five Israeli startups have been founded in the fish food alternatives market in the past year – four developing lab-farmed fish and one developing plant-based fish. Investments have increased tenfold over the past two years as the global fishing market experiences a severe shortage of fish and enormous environmental damage from the fishing industry.
Sea2Cell, which develops farmed bluefin tuna, was founded in September 2021 at the Fresh Start food technology incubator in Kiryat Shmona by Avishai Levy, Dr Itai Tzchori, Pablo Resnik, Professor Berta Sivan and Dr Orna Harel . The company raised 3.5 million shekels.
Professor Sivan came to the fish alternatives business from the fish industry itself. As a biology professor at Hebrew University’s Faculty of Agriculture, she started a business to speed up the process of fish farming. She has been involved in another project in Africa to advance carp fish farming in ponds. But she believes wild fish should be left alone.
She said: “Fish are the only animals we still hunt and farm. We sail out to sea and oceans and create disaster. In the Mediterranean, 90% of the fish have disappeared and the situation is not very favourable. encouraging in the oceans. Even those who make a living from fishing now understand that this cannot last.
Professor Sivan has acquired major know-how in isolating cells from living fish tissue in order to rear them. She was approached by Dr. Orna Harel who for years had been thinking about the development of farmed fish. They were joined by Dr. Itai Tzchori, a fish stem cell expert and Pablo Resnik who has been involved in the international fish and seafood trade. They created the start-up in the Fresh Start incubator, a partnership between Tnuva, Tempo, OurCrowd and Finister.
While mammalian stem cells have been produced for many years, partly in research institutes, very few fish stem cells are produced. Sea2Cell first builds a massive stem cell production capacity, which can be licensed out to other companies to manufacture the products. The target is bluefin tuna. “Professor Sivan said, ‘Even if we stopped killing a tuna, we would have gotten something.
Tuna are overfished worldwide and attempts to breed them in captivity have failed.
Plantish is developing plant-based salmon and plans to launch its products in Michelin restaurants in the United States. The company was founded in March 2021 by CEO Ofek Ron, R&D Director Dr Hila Elimelech, CSO Dr Ron Sicsic and CTO Dr Ariel Szklanny. The company has raised $2 million and plans to unveil its prototype product in 2023 and sell products by the end of 2023.
Ron said: “Any campaigner will tell you that the sea is the biggest problem and the number of fish killed is many times that of cows, chickens and sheep combined. I have seen that in places where good alternatives to meat were available, it was really reduced meat consumption and I couldn’t understand why there was no fish.”
When Ron looked into the matter further he discovered that there were alternative products to fish such as canned tuna and fish cutlets and skewers, there are no products that mimic fish fillets and there is no was not easy to create similar textures and structures.
“I thought if we could figure out how to make such a tenderloin, then the company might be Beyond Meat or Impossible Foods of the sea”
Wanda Fish is a cell-farming company aiming to produce cell-based fish fillets by scientists who have moved from pharmacy to food technology. The company was founded in November 2021 by CEO Dr. Daphna Heffetz and based in the Kitchen Foodtech Hub, the company has raised NIS 3 million from the Israel Innovation Authority.
Until recent months, Dr. Heffetz was unfamiliar with food technology. For the past 20 years, she has run biotech companies and her most recent venture has developed a cannabis-based treatment for epilepsy. She thought about resting for a while, but then she received an offer from incubator The Kitchen to create an alternative fish startup based on intellectual property to produce meat outside of living bodies, acquired from a famous American university.
She told. “I started reading about it and was very excited. I first heard about the terrible state of the oceans, but I was unaware of the magnitude of the problem and the potential for change of things.”
Wanda Fish strives to produce authentic fish fillets after taking fish samples and developing muscle and fat tissue and preparing a sample bank. “After the wars, we cultivate fish tissue so that the structure of a thick fillet is produced with an authentic fish taste. If it is a salmon, for example, it will be pink with white stripes .”
Wanda hasn’t decided which fish she will develop yet. What is unique about the company is that to grow fish cells they do not use ingredients from fish but from a process external to the fish and only from materials made from fish. of plants.
Forsea entrepreneurs plan to produce farmed eels for the Japanese market where they are considered a delicacy. On the brink of extinction, prices jump and this presents a major trading opportunity.
Forsea was founded in October 2021 in the Kitchen Foodtech Hub by CEO Roee Nir and Professor Iftach Nachman and Professor Yaniv Alkoby. The company has raised NIS 3 million from the Israel Innovation Authority and expects its products to hit the market in 2025.
Nir said: “We wanted to be the sole player in the market. When we came across this market, we were amazed because eels are considered a delicacy and a fish on the verge of extinction. Prices have increased fivefold in recent years. years and their shortage creates a very big opportunity.”
The technology developed by ForSea is the result of a collaboration between Tel Aviv University and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and is suitable for all types of fish and seafood. ForSea has considered all types of fish, from salmon and cod tuna and even caviar, but it was the high price of eel that tipped the scales in its favour. A kilogram of eel in Japan sells for 60 dollars and a smoked or vacuum-packed eel sells for 50 euros per kilogram in Europe.
E-Fishient develops farmed tilapias. Founded in April 2021 as a partnership between BioMeat and the Vulcani Institute, the company is led by CEO Jill Gammon. The company raised NIS 2 million in two rounds and pledged an additional NIS 3 million.
E-Fishient decided to focus on tilapia, a popular fish for feeding the hungry masses rather than premium fish like salmon or tuna.
“It won’t be a trickle like you imagine,” Gammon warns. “And you won’t see me on TV waiting for diners to see if it’s similar to the fish they ate at the restaurant yesterday. We believe you need to find a solution for the world, not the high-end market. With the world’s population growing and fish becoming scarce, this will be a difficult problem that creates needs.”
Tilapia, which replaced carp, represents 50% of the fish sold in Israel and it is a world market worth 13 to 15 billion dollars per year, growing by 3% to 7%.
You’re going for cheaper fish, which means you’ll need more efficient pricing
“First, at the moment it’s true, although we don’t know what it will be in five years. Second, it’s part of our challenge, not premium but a solution for the masses. We think that in five years , it will be a problem to obtain protein from animals and also from plants because crops are rapidly reduced and the price of wheat and corn increases because they are destined for cows and chickens.”
At this stage, E-Fishient refuses to give details of its technology.
Published by Globes, Israel business news – en.globes.co.il – on January 23, 2022.
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