Hundreds of Israeli startups are tackling food sustainability with solutions to reduce waste, streamline operations, and even enhance customer satisfaction while reducing environmental impact.
When most people browse the aisles of their local supermarket, they consider the monetary costs of the groceries they might buy, but few of us ponder the environmental impact of the foods we eat.
According to the UN, today’s global food sector consumes 30% of the world’s energy and creates 25% of all greenhouse emissions. What makes this even more disconcerting is that one-third of all food produced is wasted,
“Our current food system is unsustainable. It is depleting our natural resources, polluting our environment, and contributing to climate change. If we want to feed a growing population in a sustainable way, we need to change the way we produce and consume food,” says Alon Turkaspa, Ag & Food Tech sector lead at Start-Up Nation Central.
As a leader in food tech innovation, Israel has more than 250 startups developing technological solutions to improve sustainability and ensure food safety, while also meeting consumer expectations.
Here is an overview of several solutions Israeli tech companies are developing now.
Improving the Supply Chain with Israeli Food Tech
A huge amount of food waste is caused by supply chain inefficiencies such as the spoilage that results from overstocked inventory and suboptimal storage temperatures. Yokneam-based Evigence Sensors is one Israeli startup poised to reduce waste along the supply chain with its freshness management system, which combines sensors and data analytics to allow vendors to manage the freshness of their inventory in real-time. As Evigence’s website says, “We at Evigence dream of replacing date codes with actual freshness data. Our Freshness Management System measures aggregate time and temperature exposure to give real-time data on actual remaining ‘fresh life’, distinguishing between food at peak quality and food that’s safe for consumption.”
Even with optimized supply chains, some food products simply have a very short shelf-life, and any unexpected friction in distribution can lead to significant waste. That’s why Nes Ziona-based LiVA is working to extend the shelf-life of fresh produce with human-friendly bacteria and nutrients that spoilage and maintain flavor. The bacteria produce natural counteragents against the microbes that cause food to spoil, including pathogens that harm human health. By deploying “good” bacteria against those that cause spoilage and disease, LiVA’s biotechnology is able not only to extend the shelf-life of food, but also eliminate the need for expensive and wasteful high-barrier packaging.
As food travels from farm to consumer, safety is of the utmost importance and often startlingly difficult to monitor. Ashdod-based Prevera has developed a unique mixture of natural essential amino acids that form a powerful antimicrobial protein that protects food from relevant pathogens. Foods treated with Prevera’s innovative formula stay safe and healthy through every stop along the supply chain.
In addition to waste, packaging is another element of food production that exacts a substantial environmental toll. Food packaging accounts for 50% of all packing materials used globally, and less than 15% is recycled, with the rest going to landfills or polluting the environment. Once again, Israeli startups are creative solutions. TIPA, for instance, is a Hod Hasharon company producing plant-based compostable packaging materials that are durable and do not contribute to excess waste. Unlike traditional plastics, which may take decades or even centuries to decompose, TIPA’s plant-based plastics fully biodegrade in less than one year.
Sufresca is another innovative Israeli company tackling freshness and packaging at the same time. Based in Kfar Vitkin, they’ve created a natural edible coating to extend the lifetime of fruits and vegetables and reduce the need for redundant packaging. With Sufresca’s solution, produce can be stored longer, chilled efficiently, and handled without causing damage.
Utilizing the Natural Medical and Functional Benefits of Food
Nature was humankind’s first and best nutritionist, surrounding our distant ancestors with the nutrients they needed to be healthy and feel their best. It’s a different story for us in the 21st century when markets present us with a variety of tasty but nutrient-poor options that put our bodies and minds under stress. Israeli food tech startups are stepping in to solve the problem.
Tel Aviv-based MyAir, for instance, has developed a chronic stress solution that helps people improve their mood through personalized dietary plans informed by cutting-edge nutritional science. Based on mind and body data analytics, the company’s personalized nutrition program can reduce stress by 80% according to studies.
Stress isn’t the only ailment that can be cured through personalized nutrition. By tapping into functional proteins that are 95% biosimilar to breast milk, Tirat Carmel-based Maolac is making nature’s best nutrition available for everyone. The company has developed a unique delivery system that ensures high absorption for optimal benefits of functional proteins, representing a major innovation in the advancement of precision nutrition.
Leafy green vegetables are universally renowned as a superfood with unmatched health benefits, but what most people don’t know is that their vital nutrients start to dissipate rapidly once they are harvested. By combining advanced technology and a truly exceptional first crop, GreenOnyx can do what others can’t: guarantee optimal freshness from seed to plate for the mass market. The company has engineered a growing system for freshwater lentils, a superfood that is nutritious, pure, has a long shelf-life, and is palatable to consumers. The supplement is grown in a unique indoor modular system that is sustainable, reduces waste, and ensures year-round production.
Creating New Ingredients for Food Producers
Health experts and environmentalists are constantly trying to improve foods by reducing the amount of chemicals needed to produce them, and improving the health benefits they confer, and optimizing the sustainability of production. Israel is at the forefront of creating new technologies that accomplish all of these goals simultaneously
For example, Rehovot-based Amai Proteins developed a designer protein supplement to reduce up to 70% of sugar added in the food industry. The supplement is cost-effective, eco-friendly, and sustainable, and does not alter food tastes. The Amai sweetener is 100% protein. Just like any protein, it is digested by our body into the amino acids we need to repair tissue and build muscle.
Jerusalem-based Ambrosia Bio is another company developing a healthy sugar substitute that has the potential to dramatically improve public health. It is developing methods to commercially produce Allulose, a rare occurring natural sugar with a similar taste to normal sugar, but with a minimal caloric content and significantly lower impact on blood sugar.
In addition to added sugar, many processed foods include color additives synthesized from chemicals that are hypothesized to negatively impact our health in a variety of ways. To address this problem, Yokneam-based Phytolon has developed a natural plant-based food colorant produced through fermentation. The colorants are healthy, eco-friendly, and cost-effective.
Animal proteins are another challenge in the food industry, from both the perspectives of environmental and human health. Not only are production processes far more unsustainable than those of plant-based proteins, but they also present a variety of ethical concerns in regard to animal welfare. Yet, meat and dairy are very popular and provide meaningful health benefits, and most people do not seem eager to give them up anytime soon. Several Israeli food tech companies have developed alternative animal protein products that provide comparable consumer satisfaction to conventional animal products but without health, environmental, and animal welfare concerns.
For example, milk protein and eggs are being reproduced by Nes Ziona-based Remilk and Kiryat Shmona-based Eggmented Reality. Both companies use a fermentation process to reproduce proteins with no animals involved. Their products have the same flavor, texture, and nutritional values as their animal-based counterparts and can be produced sustainably and humanely at scale.
Two Rehovot-based companies, Aleph Farms, and Forsea, have proven that tasty meat and seafood can be produced synthetically in the lab. Aleph Farms unveiled the world’s first cultivated thin steak in 2018, while Forsea cultivates high-quality seafood that passes the “taste test,” which they hope will revolutionize the global seafood market to reverse the massive depletion of wild fisheries and destruction of marine environments.
Rehovot-based Oshi has developed a plant-based alternative protein that doesn’t rely on any animal products at all. The company’s first product, Oshi Salmon, is made of legume proteins, algae oils, and algae extracts. It’s rich in protein, omega-3, and omega-6, providing all the benefits of fish without the dangerous chemicals such as mercury frequently found in wild seafood and reducing the toll on fisheries.
Optimizing the Consumer Experience with Food Tech
At the end of the day, consumer experience is king in the food and beverage industry, and no product with environmental or even health benefits is likely to be adopted en masse if people don’t love it. Artificial intelligence and analytics help many companies improve their customer experience and Tel Aviv-based Tastewise is bringing this technology to the food industry with their TasteGPT platform. Food and beverage companies and restaurants can leverage the data intelligence tool to analyze tastes and market trends and optimize the experience they provide their consumers. As a result, they’ll be able to reduce waste by stocking the inventory their customers want, improving customer satisfaction and their own bottom line at the same time.
The best way to improve the consumer experience is through personalization. Tel Aviv-based EAT ID helps restaurants personalize their offering by matching preferences to available dishes. The company’s virtual waiter ensures customers receive food that fits their tastes, including modifications for allergies and other requirements.
Start-up Nation Central: Opening the Doors to the Israeli Food Tech Ecosystem
The Israeli food-tech industry has shown immense promise in shaping a resilient and efficient global food system. Start-up Nation Central fosters collaborations and facilitates the growth of promising businesses that contribute to a sustainable future.