With Foodtech Bridge, Green Circle Capital Highlights the NYC-Israel Food Tech Connection

Food tech might not be the first thing you associate New York City or Israel with, but Green Circle Capital Partners, a boutique investment firm specializing in natural product brands and food tech, is on a mission to change that. Last month, I joined investors, startups, academics, industry enthusiasts, and commercial partners from the United States and Israel at the Cornell Tech campus for the Green Circle NY-Israel Foodtech Bridge Conference.

The conference, hosted in collaboration with The Kitchen FoodTech Hub, Cornell College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and Technion, explored a variety of food tech related topics including climate solutions, intellectual property, venture financing, scaling and finding distribution partners, and research and academic opportunities.

Although it covered many topics, it was clear the conference had two goals: to support cross-border collaboration between Israel and the United States and to establish New York as a hub for food tech. It’s difficult to achieve those goals in a single conference, and some of the missions described sounded very far-off, but I enjoyed learning about the small steps that can be taken in the right direction.

Photo credits: Dave Neff, Neffpix

The startups pitched ideas related to alternatives, including cultivated meat, plant-based and cultivated fish, animal-free dairy products, fermentation, and microalgae. One memorable insight was from The Good Food Institute’s Bruce Freidrich, who noted that alternative proteins are the only climate solution in food and agriculture tech analogous to electric vehicles or clean energy. This was particularly interesting to me because the scalability of alternative proteins is something that is often questioned since they are still more expensive than their traditional counterparts in the same way that electric vehicles are often more expensive than gas ones.

A number of alternative protein startups from Israel pitched during the conference, including:

  • Profuse: reducing the costs and accelerating the production of cultivated meat muscle through biological pathway manipulation. This startup takes stem cells and turns them into muscle at 50% of the existing cost.
  • Plantish: making whole-cut plant-based fish fillet with structure, texture, and scalability. The company will be launching at pop-up locations later this year and plans to be commercially available in 2023.
  • Mushlabs: using mushroom mycelium to create raw ingredients for hybrid meat alternatives that are 50% animal and 50% mushroom. The company raised a $ 10 million Series A round in late 2020.
  • Forsea: harnessing nature’s way of tissue formation and an organoid-based approach to replicate natural composition and lower costs by up to 90%. The company’s first product will be cultivated eel meat.
  • Yeap: repurposing yeast that would otherwise be broken away into a functional concentrated protein. The end product will act as an egg, milk, or soy replacement.
  • Meatfora: creating a clean meat platform based on scalable edible carriers and matching processing methodologies. Meat is grown from cells using edible and affordable plant-based platforms.
  • Brief: leveraging microalgae to achieve a more neutral flavor, neutral color, and full amino acid profile in alternative proteins. The startup combines fermentation and light in industrial-scale indoor bio-reactors.
Photo credits: Dave Neff, Neffpix

With so many different companies working towards the same goal of using food tech to combat climate change and increase sustainability in food systems, it was no surprise that collaboration and trade secrets were topics of conversation during the day. One discussion explored the idea of ​​open-source research to allow alternative protein companies to collaborate and drive scientific discovery together. It made sense since one of the conference’s main goals is to drive collaboration, so it’s only natural that scientists, startup founders, investors, and commercial partners meet each other and find ways to work toward the common goal of a healthier food system.

The most exciting part of the conference was the startup pitches. The other startups from Israel that pitched at the conference included:

  • Biotic Labs: using microalgae to create bio-based, biodegradable RPBHV polymers. The goal is for this to be used in plastic to eliminate recycling limits and costs.
  • Imagindairy: creating animal-free proteins for dairy products through precision fermentation. The startup closed a $ 13 million seed round late last year and is partnering with leading dairy companies to offer their dairy-free proteins.
  • Maolac: creating functional milk proteins for adults for brain, bones, eyesight, skin, and immune system and development support. A unique algorithm identifies proteins in breast milk for different mammals and amplifies absorption.
  • MyAir: leveraging wearable data and a nutrition bar to offer insights into stress and deliver actionable insights into diet. The nutrition bar is currently available online.
  • Yarok: developing fast testing technology for food companies to identify dangerous microbes and plant pathogens. The technology aims to protect the entire food supply chain.

The NY-Israel Foodtech Bridge will be traveling to Tel Aviv in November. In the meantime, the conference organizers hope that the connections and insights exchanged at the event will translate into actions and partnerships.

Photo credits: Dave Neff, Neffpix

“A one-day conference isn’t going to save the world, but incrementally each of us doing our own part can chip away at a problem,” said Stu Strumwasser, Managing Director of Green Circle Capital Partners. “And that’s how things change.”

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