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Israeli cultivated meat consortium kicks off with $18 million government grant

The group includes 14 companies, including leading alternative protein startups, and 10 academic and research institutions

Ricky Ben-David is The Times of Israel’s Tech Israel editor and reporter.

Cultivated steak. Illustrative. (Elena Dy via iStock by Getty Images)
Cultivated steak. Illustrative. (Elena Dy via iStock by Getty Images)

The Israel Innovation Authority has granted $18 million for what it dubbed the “world’s largest” consortium for cultivated meat development, made up of 14 companies including leading Israeli food tech startups, and 10 universities and research institutions.

The consortium will be co-led by Gaya Savyon, a grantee of the Good Food Institute Israel (GFI), a nonprofit organization that seeks to promote research and innovation in food tech, and Israeli food manufacturing giant Tnuva, which recently launched its own cultured meat venture and is included in the 14 companies.

The funding is for a period of three years, the Israel Innovation Authority said Monday. The authority announced the establishment of the cultivated meat consortium in October, alongside three other consortiums for insect farming, fluid sampling for medical diagnosis, and human-robot interface (HRI), a multidisciplinary field that studies interactions between humans and robots.

In addition to Tnuva, the 13 other companies in the consortium include Aleph Farms, a Rehovot-based cultivated meat startup that has raised more than $110 million in funding and recently opened a new production facility ahead of its commercial launch; Super Meat, which grows beef and poultry cells; BioBetter, a developer of a protein manufacturing and biologic drug purification platform; Biological Industries, an Israel-headquartered multinational chemicals and biotechnology company; BioDalia, a manufacturer of biopesticides and fermentation-based products; and Seevix Material Sciences, a Jerusalem-based biotech company that has produced synthetic spider silk fibers.

Among the academic institutions in the group are the Hebrew University of Jerusalem; Tel Aviv University; the Technion — Israel Institute of Technology; Reichman University (formerly IDC); and the Volcani Center, Agricultural Research Organization.

Israel has, in recent years, an important tech hub for cultured meat, a key sub-sector in the alternative protein market that comprises plant-based substitutes for meat, dairy, and egg; cultured dairy, meat and seafood; insect proteins; and fermentation products and processes.

Diners eat burgers made with “cultured chicken” meat at a restaurant adjacent to the SuperMeat production site in the central town of Ness Ziona on June 18, 2021 (JACK GUEZ / AFP)

Israel’s alternative protein sector grew by about 450% in 2021 from the previous year, with Israeli startups in the field raising some $623 million in investments, according to a recent report by The Good Food Institute Israel.

In the cultivated meat sector alone, Israeli companies drew just over $500 million in investments, accounting for about 36% of total investments (about $900 million) in the space worldwide in 2021, and also second only to the US with about $700 million in funds for startups in this field.

According to the GFI report, 11 new alternative protein companies were founded in Israel over the course of last year — six cultivated meat and seafood companies, four plant-based protein companies, and one fermentation process company.

International consulting firm Mckinsey & Company has estimated that the global cultivated meat market could reach $25 billion by 2030.

Aleph Farms opened a 65,000 square foot facility for cultured meat production in February 2022, in the Stratasys building in Rehovot. (Amit Goren)

“The establishment of the Israeli cultivated meat consortium is a fundamental milestone toward fulfilling this optimistic forecast, and Israel is paving the way. The approval [of the funding] strengthens Israel’s position as a world leader in alternative proteins R&D and cultured meat specifically,” the Israel Innovation Authority said in the announcement.

A previous GFI report with consulting multinational EY urged that Israel will need a national plan to support its growing food tech industry if it hopes to maintain a key role in the sector over the coming years.

A strong local food tech industry can establish food security and become a strategic national asset for Israel, the report said.

“Now, more than ever, governments need to find ways to ensure national food security, said Alla Voldman-Rantzer, director of strategic alliances at GFI Israel, in a statement. “Alternative protein technologies, and cultivated meat in particular, are essential components in that regard, just as they are essential in bringing forth a sustainable and just protein supply”

Shay Cohen, chief innovation officer at Tnuva and chairperson of the cultivated meat consortium said, “This is an unprecedented governmental commitment on a global scale, in a cellular agriculture consortium and more particularly cultivated meat which will enable Israel to maintain its leadership in one of the most significant areas in food tech.”

“Collaboration between leading cultivated meat companies, leading food manufacturers who bring the expertise of implementing these technologies in scale and researchers in academia, is essential to create a breakthrough this field and to make the products accessible to the general public,” said Cohen.

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