Shani Zanescu
Your Connection to Israeli Tech & Innovation

The Future of Food, The Food of the Future

“You are what you eat,” they say. But what is it that we are going to eat? What is the food of the future? Is there reason to be concerned that our food supply might diminish? How does the global foodtech scene is shaping up? And how does the Israeli foodtech sector bring the best of technologies as solutions to global matters?

According to Professor Cribb, in his book ‘The Coming Famine,’ global food shortage is just around the corner and is to be expected around the year of 2050. By that time, the world population is projected to hit 10 billion people worldwide, with increased food demand by 70%. Coupled with the corresponding shortages in water, energy, arable land, and others – and I am sure we might all agree: we’re in quite a pickle.

Additionally, there is no bigger industry on our planet than food and agriculture, with a consistent and loyal customer base of 7 billion people. The World Bank estimates that food and agriculture comprise about 10% of global GDP, meaning that the value of this sector could be valued at $8 trillion globally – based on a projected GDP of $88 trillion in 2019 according to Tech Crunch.

But, as we know, with necessity also comes technology!

Indeed, in recent years, we have seen tremendous growth in global investments in food technologies. Whereas in 2008 global investments in the foodtech sector were $60M, in 2018 they were $5.85B (Agrinvestor). Additionally, more and more companies in this field are going IPO, or planning to do so in the near future (for instance, the popular Beyond Meat). We’ve also seen how foodtech companies paved their way into our mainstream. For example, some companies even managed to attract the attention of celebrities, like Oprah and Katy Perry, who recently became investors in Apeel Sciences, a natural coating for fruits and vegetables that prolongs their shelf lives and reduces food waste – one of the most pressing global issue of our time.

The bottom line is, that everyone understands these days – that inventing new food technologies, and investing in food technologies, is an imperative, and a timely matter.

And what is happening in the Israeli foodtech sector?

The Israeli foodtech industry is rated fifth in the world, and carries promising expectations due to its competitive advantage in research and development in complementary fields such as chemistry, genetic engineering, and of course agriculture. With 250 different startups, 17 research institutions and universities, getting funding from about 250 investors who have invested just in 2019 over $135M – this sector continues to flourish and grow.

What are some technologies that are changing and reshaping the way our plates will appear in the future? Let’s check out three, out of the 250 Israeli startups, that are inventing the food of the future – the food of the future that is already here.

GREENONYX

Did you know that raw, dark, leafy greens are the healthiest food on the planet, providing the most nutrients per calorie? Yet, 90% of consumers do not even consume the minimum daily recommended portions of such nutrients.

Meet the world’s smallest and fastest growing vegetable, that makes “eating your greens” a whole lot more fun and exciting: GreenOnyx.

Every single of GreenOnyx’s tiny grain, which resembles “green-caviar” in appearance, is like a whole vegetable, packed with fresh nutrients, ready to eat and can be added to literally any dish – from your kids’ P&J sandwich, to your favorite dish at your favorite local chef restaurant, or simply as it is. Nature at its best.

Jeff Maning, Godfather of ‘Got Milk?’ and the person behind the marketing strategy of Beyond Meat says, GreenOnyx greens are the most exciting new brand/category combination since Beyond Meat and plant-based protein.”

This magical food is made possible by bio-mimicking the natural habitat growth conditions of leafy greens, and via self-growing modular and compact farms, designed to scale globally and provide consumers with fresh, dark, leafy greens grown locally. This is a deep-tech, patented cultivation AI-based platform from seed to pack, with an end-to-end cloud-based traceability. And green isn’t just the color of this food, but also GreenOnyx’s approach – with zero waste, zero pollution, 99% less water, and 95% less fertilizers compared to standard agriculture, all while saving arable land – they provide fresh greens equivalent to the annual yield of 3,000sqm green vegetables field.

Former Whole Foods Exec. VP Errol Schweizer said that “the brand should reach a market valuation of up to $1 Billion in the US alone within a decade of launch”. And Max Goldberg , a US leading organic food influencer, mentioned that “I can think of no food company that has more potential to positively impact humanity than GreenOnyx of Israel”.

The future indeed seems a bit greener!

REMILK

Another thing we heard as kids, besides “eat your greens,” was “drink your milk!”. However, in recent years, the world has been searching and inventing dairy replacements and alternatives, aiming to address environmental and health concerns and hazards. Unfortunately, these alternatives, almost universally, fail to bring us dairy products that resemble “the real thing”.

One Israeli startup is bridging the current gaps in the dairy industry, and giving cows their well-deserved rest. They have invented a functional, versatile, animal-free milk that behaves the same as dairy milk. Remilk is reinventing all that we know about dairy products.

“The breakthrough is sharp and clear as we are producing non-animal milk proteins that are completely identical to those made by cows. We have ‘trained’ our microbes to digest basic molecules, like sugar, and turn them into fabulous dairy components”, says Aviv Wolff, CEO of Remilk. “This gene instructs our microbe to produce the specific protein in a very efficient and scalable way.”

Remilk’s key innovation lies in (1) the flavor – an actual milk flavor, not just another milk replacement; (2) the nutrients – as Remilk has the control over what gets into the milk, for example reducing the lactose, or adding non-saturated fats; and (3) the milk functionality – allowing to produce cheese, for example, with enzymes just like with cow milk. The latter is something that cannot be effectuated with the current alternatives in the market.

Lastly, this innovation is also 100 times more land efficient, 25 times more feedstock efficient, 20 times more time efficient, and 10 times more water efficient.

Remilk is bridging all health and environmental gaps, by making dairy milk, with dairy proteins – without needing a single cow.

HARGOL

The last example for cutting-edge food technologies coming from Israel is Hargol, a superior protein alternative. Just to clarify for all of you, non-Hebrew speakers, Hargol in Hebrew means a grasshopper – and that is exactly what these guys are serving up.

Hargol’s solution is in fact a healthy way to consume protein with all essential amino acids, and with very low saturated fat and cholesterol components. Grasshopper is the most widely eaten insect in the world, with a neutral taste and flavor. It requires minimal processing, and it is also the only kosher and halal insect. If these benefits aren’t enough for you, just know that Hargol is also considerate of the environment and sustainable – producing their Hargols with very low water footprint, zero waste, and with extremely low greenhouse gases emissions.

If eating whole grasshoppers isn’t your thing, you can buy their protein powder to add to your daily smoothie, pancake mix, and other variety such as sausages, falafel, and more to come! You can also get a Biblical Protein energy bar to go. These nutritious honeys were referenced 2,000 years ago, when John the Baptist lived and ate natural healthy food on the banks of the Jordan river – “His food was locust and wild honey…,” as it says in Matthew 3:4. Today, it may seem unusual to consume these winged creatures, yet their nutrients have been hidden for thousands of years in the Middle East, where locust has been eaten fresh as a food source, or dried and stored for leaner times. Now more than 2000 years later, in the same area just miles from where John the Baptist lived, the first commercial locust farm in the world has been established – producing a variety of delicious products from one of the most fascinating insects on the face of the Earth.

We are what we eat. And we want to eat well, in order to be well – for our planet, for ourselves, for the next generations. In the meantime, while all the brilliant brains of the Israeli startups scene are working for groundbreaking, healthy, yummy, and nutritious solutions to tackle global issues – I just want to wish you all: beteavon!

Sources: Invest in Israel Foodtech report, 2019; Tech Crunch; Agrinvestor; World Bank; The Coming Famine. 

About the Author
Shani Zanescu is the Founder of Isratech Ventures, connecting top-tier investors, government officials, executives, and private entities from all around the world to Israeli tech and innovation. For nearly a decade, she has been forming partnerships between Israel and key players in the global arena through various business development and foreign relations roles. Previously, Shani was a Director of an Innovation Center, and also the Head of the Foreign Affairs Department of the British Council in Israel, leading collaborations in the fields of science and innovation. She was also the Assistant Defense Attaché at the Embassy of Israel in the Netherlands (ja, ze spreek een beetje nederlands). Shani holds a Master's in Diplomacy & National Security from Tel Aviv University’s Executive Program, and a Bachelor of Communications & Business from Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas (where she also lived for 5 years, y'all!). She also teaches Entrepreneurship & Innovation for colleges students. This year, Shani was chosen by Forbes magazine to the ‘30 Under 30' list. She lives in Tel Aviv, loves the beach, loves tech - and obviously loves talking about it.
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