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In first, fruit fly larvae protein maker said planning Tel Aviv IPO

Flying SpArk to raise NIS 20 million, Calcalist says; startup uses larvae to create a protein powder containing nutrients

Shoshanna Solomon is The Times of Israel's Startups and Business reporter

An illustrative image of a fruit fly (Entwicklungsknecht; iStock by Getty Images)
An illustrative image of a fruit fly (Entwicklungsknecht; iStock by Getty Images)

Israeli startup Flying SpArk, a maker of alternative proteins from the processed larvae of fruit flies, is planning to raise some NIS 20 million ($6.2 million) in an initial public offering of shares in Tel Aviv, marking a global first for an insect-based protein maker coming to the public market, Calcalist financial website said on Monday.

The fundraising, forecast to happen in coming weeks, would valuate the firm at around NIS 100 million to NIS 120 million shekels, Calcalist said, without saying where it got the information. The purpose of the IPO is to raise money to set up a production facility in Thailand.

Flying SpArk uses larvae from Ceratitis capitata, the Mediterranean fruit fly, which in nature feed on fresh fruits. The larvae have a lifespan of only seven days yet multiply their body mass 250 times in that period. Flying SpArk’s technology enables “easy and low-cost cultivation and processing, with nearly zero waste,” as all parts of the larvae are used, the company said in a statement in 2019. This gives Flying SpArk an edge over conventional protein sources — not only those from meat and plants but also those from other insects, such as crickets and grasshoppers, the statement said.

Flying SpArk grows the larvae and turns them into a protein powder containing minerals, calcium and magnesium. The powder is then used to create meat, poultry and fish alternatives, copying the the texture and flavor of the originals. The powder is also an excellent source of amino acids, the company says. Its white color and mild taste and aroma enable easy incorporation of the protein into a variety of food and feed products.

The “NotTuna” product developed by Israeli startup Flying SpArk on display at the FoodTechIL event in Tel Aviv; Sept. 23, 2019 (Shoshanna Solomon/Times of Israel)

Larvae are easy and cheap to cultivate; they use a tiny amount of water and land and don’t generate polluting greenhouse gases. And they’re kosher, the company says.

Flying SpArk, co-founded in 2015 by CEO Eran Gronich and Keren Kles, grew in the food-tech incubator of The Kitchen Hub, set up by Strauss Group, which has to date invested in 18 portfolio companies, according to its website.

In 2019, Thai Union Group, one of the world’s largest canned tuna processors and exporters, agreed to invest a total of $3 million in the firm if certain milestones were met. Strauss is also an investor in Flying SpArk, holding a 35% stake of its shares, Calcalist said.

One of the company’s products is the NOTtuna product, which looks like chunks of tuna fish in a can, and apparently tastes and smells like the real thing. It is actually processed larvae of fruit flies and it’s packed with protein and minerals.

For every 1,000 ton of protein powder created by the firm, the world saves 110 million square meters of freshwater, 50,000 hectares of land and 55,000 ton of GHG emissions, Flying SpArk says on its website.

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