Israeli food tech startup pulls in over $12m for 3D-printed plant-based fish
Investors in seed round, largest for global alt-seafood sector, include State of Mind Ventures, Pitango, OurCrowd
Ricky Ben-David is The Times of Israel’s Tech Israel editor and reporter.
Israeli food company Plantish, a developer of plant-based salmon fillets that it says mimic the appearance, taste, and texture of the actual fish, has pulled in over $12 million in a seed round, the largest early investment in the global alternative seafood sector so far.
The $12.5 million round was led by Israeli venture capital fund State Of Mind Ventures, with participation from Pitango Health Tech; New York-based alternative protein-focused VC Unovis; TechAviv Founder Partners, a fund focused on Israeli founders that has backed companies such as drone logistics firm Flytrex and creator firm Nas Academy; and Israeli investment firm OurCrowd, according to a company announcement on Wednesday.
The startup had previously raised $2 million in pre-seed funding in June 2021 from TechAviv Founder Partners as well as angel investors including renowned Spanish-American chef José Andrés, and Palestinian-Israeli content creator and celebrity Nuseir Yassin from Nas Daily.
Based in Rehovot, the startup says it made a fully vegan, structured, boneless salmon fillet with the same nutritional value as the actual fish, which is high in protein, omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids, and B vitamins — but without the mercury, antibiotics, hormones, microplastics, and toxins often found in ocean or aquaculture species. The Plantish product can be cooked or grilled in the same ways that conventional salmon is prepared, the company says.
Plantish unveiled its plant-based salmon prototype in January, announcing that it was developing a patent-pending additive manufacturing technology — the industrial name for 3D printing — to make plant-based fish alternatives at a low cost and at scale.
The company said it opted for the complexities of whole-cut production rather than minced, because of customer demand. “Approximately 80% of fish is consumed whole-cut, in the form of whole fish or fillets,” Plantish says.
Plantish was founded in mid-2021 by Ofek Ron, the former general manager of the Israeli organization Vegan Friendly, who serves as CEO; Dr. Hila Elimelech, a chemistry PhD and expert in additive manufacturing technology who serves as head of R&D; Dr. Ron Sicsic, chief scientific officer; Dr. Ariel Szklanny, a bioengineering PhD who serves as chief technology officer; and Eyal Briller, a former director of product at US plant-based meat company Impossible Foods.
The new investment will go toward building its team and conducting further R&D for product development, with plans to offer its plant-based salmon in restaurants and eateries as a first step, Plantish explained.
The startup said its plant-based salmon product will be launching in select pop-up locations by the end of 2022, with an official launch expected in 2024.
“We’ve already seen it happen in the meat market, now it’s the time for fish,” said Ron in a company statement. “And in particular salmon, which accounts for $50 billion in the half a trillion dollar seafood market. The problem has been that fish is so difficult to replicate until now.”
Ron said the company offers “a delicious upgrade to salmon that is safer for you and better for the planet. No antibiotics, no hormones, no mercury, no bycatch, and no compromise.”
The company’s vision, he said, is to be “the world’s leading seafood brand, all without hurting a single fish.”
“Cracking wholecut seafood is the next big opportunity in our quest for impact and sustainability,” said Merav Rotem Naaman, general partner at State Of Mind Ventures. “When we met the world-class team at Plantish we knew that they had the passion, vision and capability to pull off the seemingly impossible task of producing a true upgrade to fish.”
Plantish is one of some 90 companies across the world operating in the plant-based seafood industry, with another dozen or so developing cultivated seafood or fish made from animal cells, according to a Good Food Institute report in June 2021.
Market research firm IMARC Group reported that companies developing alternative fish and seafood products grew by 30 percent between 2017 and 2020, with further growth expected in the coming years as concerns over depleted supplies and overfishing increase, and more firms move from development to commercial launch.
Plantish is also one of over 40 Israeli startups in the alternative protein sector, which saw growth of about 450% in 2021, according to the latest report by the Good Food Institute (GFI) Israel published this week.
The alternative protein sector is a subsegment of the food tech industry, which also includes nutrition, packaging, food safety, processing systems, and novel ingredients. It comprises plant-based substitutes for meat, dairy, and egg; cultured dairy, meat and seafood; insect proteins; and fermentation products and processes.