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Now is the time to invest in Israel’s food technology startups, says global guru

Jeremy Coller, one of the world’s biggest investors in alternative proteins, hails Fresh Start FoodTech Incubator threatened by Hezbollah rockets

(Photo: Sea2Cell)
(Photo: Sea2Cell)

The current global food system “simply isn’t sustainable.”

That’s the stark warning from Jeremy Coller, a leading investor in alternative proteins, delivered to global investors attending ‘FoodTech on the Frontline: Invest in the Startups Feeding the Future,’ an online event hosted by OurCrowd and the Fresh Start FoodTech Incubator in Kiryat Shmona.Watch ‘FoodTech on the Frontline’

“Eight billion animals are reared and killed to feed eight billion humans,” said Coller, Founder of Coller Capital and a passionate advocate for animal welfare and reform of the global food system. “The food industry has vast consumption of fresh water, is the biggest driver of deforestation, and is the biggest user of antibiotics in the world. Intensive agriculture contributes more to climate change than the entire global transport system.”

“Fixing all of that is an immense challenge, and FoodTech is the answer,” said Coller, who also founded Farm Animal Investment Risk and Return (FAIRR), the world’s fastest-growing ESG network, representing investors with more than $70 trillion of assets under management.

“Now is not the time to blink, because regardless of what else is happening in the world, if you’re serious about FoodTech, Israel is the place to be,” Coller declared.

The double demand of meeting global food production challenges and maintaining Israel’s economic stability during the war against Hamas makes sustaining its FoodTech sector more crucial than ever, despite the challenges, Coller said.

“With the hostages still in captivity and the IDF on the ground in Gaza, it can feel very wrong talking about something trivial like business,” he said, but reminded investors that Israel’s economy is intertwined with its success as a Startup Nation. “That’s why it’s so important you keep at it even when confronted with the kind of crisis you face today.”

Dror Bin, CEO of the Israel Innovation Authority, said that Israel was second only to the US in global investment in FoodTech startups, with $1.2 billion invested in the sector between 2020 and 2022. Israel had entered the war with a sound economy and the best debt/GDP ratio among all OECD countries, he said.

To address the challenges created by the war, the Authority had earmarked $100 million for a Bridging Fund to provide extra investment in startups, including the food sector, to be matched by private investors.

“We estimate there are a few hundred early-stage companies in the middle of a fundraising round. We want to make sure that no good company will go under” just because of the war, Bin said.

The Authority plans to inject the funds “within three months,” he added.

Increased challenges

Israel’s FoodTech industry, along with the rest of the economy and the country’s high-tech sector in particular, faces increased challenges because of the war against Hamas, said Cali Chill, Head of Funds at OurCrowd.

“It’s typical that at times of war, food security is one of the first issues that comes to mind,” Chill said, adding that it was important that Israeli startups continue their work to address food shortages and climate change despite the ongoing conflict.

OurCrowd has two channels of investment, a dedicated FoodTech Fund and a new Israel Resilience Fund to support startups affected by the war, said Chill.

“Israeli research and innovation in food tech is simply critical at this time. This is where innovation hubs like the Fresh Start FoodTech Incubator come to the rescue,” said Chill.

Fresh Start, based within range of Hezbollah rockets fired from Lebanon, has relocated southwards, but its companies continue their activities, said CEO Noga Sela-Shalev and CTO Dr. Tammy Meiron.

“We take comfort and pride in the Israeli spirit of entrepreneurship, which is highly resilient and continuously pushing forward,” Meiron said. “Although we were evacuated from our state-of-the-art facility in the north, we are here to stay and continue to nurture and develop disruptive technologies for the benefit of the global food industry. This year, even more than ever, it is important for us to share the story of our portfolio companies and their significant progress.”

The event featured a discussion with nine CEOs of companies based at Fresh Start. They included Jon Rathauser of Eggmented Reality, which has developed environment-friendly egg proteins at similar cost to free-range eggs; Orna Harel, CEO and Co-Founder of Sea2Cell, which reduces production costs for cultivated fish protein; and Michael Gordon, CEO of BlueTree Technologies, which helps produce juice, milk, wine and beer with less sugar.

“The holy grail of the food and beverage industry is to remove sugar without impacting the taste. At BlueTree, we are already there,” Gordon said.

To watch the replay of ‘FoodTech on the Frontline,’ click HERE:Watch ‘FoodTech on the Frontline’

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