The world is about to get its first plant-based salmon fillet

Make your own vegan tartar sauce – the world’s first plant-based fully cut salmon fillet could be on your fork in 2024.

This bold decision by the Israeli foodtech start-up Plantar comes at a time when concerns about overfishing, antibiotics, hormones, mercury and microplastics are driving a wave of global interest in plant-based and cultured alternatives to conventional fish.

The Rehovot-based startup is developing proprietary additive manufacturing technology to 3D print a similar-tasting salmon fillet analogue at low cost and at scale.

This fillet is designed to contain the same protein, B vitamins and omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids as real salmon but without the toxins (or bones!).

Founded in March 2021, Plantish raised $2 million from Founding partners of TechAviv and angel investors, including Nuseir Yassin of Daily Nas.

Plantish co-founders, left to right: Dr. Ron Sicsic, Dr. Ariel Szklanny, Dr. Hila Elimelech, Ofek Ron. Photo courtesy of Plantish

Co-founder and CEO Ofek Ron said the company’s goal is to “save the oceans and eliminate the need to consume marine animals by providing more sustainable, nutritious and delicious fish options”. .

“Delicious” is the key word.

Planted salmon will only appeal to consumers if it tastes authentic. And it’s not easy to achieve when the main ingredients are legume proteins and seaweed extracts.

Taste and texture

“There are almost endless opportunities to develop new products that address different markets around the world. But people will only buy them if they achieve taste and texture parity with conventional fish,” said Marika Azoff, corporate engagement specialist for the Good Food Institute (GFI), said in its recent state of the industry report on alternative seafood.

“The challenges involve both taste and texture – the delicate texture of a flaky fish fillet, ‘oceanic’ but not too fishy,” she explained.

Plantish develops plant-based whole cut salmon. Photo by Asaf Karela

If these challenges are met, plant-based and cultured fish could benefit not only human health, but also the health of the planet and its waterways.

Commercial fishing, and in particular the habitat-destroying practice of bottom trawling, causes pollution and the loss of marine species and biodiversity.

Availability and cost are also attractive reasons for mooring this fishing boat.

“The advantages of plant-based or cultured fish include the ability to produce it anywhere, not just near water sources, which also reduces costs and carbon footprint,” Azoff pointed out. “Production can be demand-driven, reducing the huge spoilage problem the industry faces.”

The fish catches up

Plant-based and cultured meat and poultry companies are more numerous and advanced than those dealing with fish alternatives. Israel has a dozen companies in the alternative meat/poultry space, such as Redefining meat and Aleph Farms.

Alternative fish, although still a very new and small area, are swimming to catch up.

Global food conglomerates such as BirdsEye, Nestlé and Cargill have already launched alternative seafood products, Azoff said. Companies such as Bumble Bee, Long John Silver’s and Walmart are also pursuing partnerships with alternative fish startups.

GFI statistics show that plant-based and cell culture seafood companies raised more than $80 million in 2020 (four times the amount raised in 2019), and in the first half of 2021, that number increased. amounted to $116 million.

Plantish says its vegan fillet will look and taste like salmon. Photo by Asaf Karela

In the United States, the most popular alternative fish products are whitefish, crab, tuna and shrimp analogues, according to GFI. Most of these products are in minced form, but the main market outlet is whole fish.

Salmon is the second most popular fish in America, after shrimp. Globally, salmon represents $50 billion in the $586 billion seafood market. But no one has perfected the cut whole salmon.

This is what Plantish aims to do, with the help of its scientists and Chief Nir Zook.

The Plantish team in Rehovot. Photo courtesy of Plantish

If successful, Plantish could claim a top spot among the more than 60 cultured and plant-based fish startups currently operating in the United States and Europe.

Cultured fish, a fish-like product made from fish cells under laboratory conditions, represents a minority of the roughly 90 startups worldwide working toward alternatives to fish.

Four new Israeli startups developing farmed fish are Sea2Cell, a portfolio company of Fresh Start Food Technology Incubator; Forsea and Wanda Fish, both members of The Strauss Kitchen Hub; and E-Fishient Proteinfounded in partnership with BioMeat FoodTech and the Ministry of Agriculture volcanic center – Agricultural research organization.

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