“Foodtech wasn’t really a real sector in Israel then.”
“We were already known for agriculture technology, but there weren’t many organizations in Israel talking the food tech language except The Strauss Group, which had an open innovation platform,” the VP of business development at The Kitchen tells AgFunderNews.
So, before launching The Kitchen in 2015, Zaidman and his colleagues started creating a food tech community and arranging group meetups for other interested parties and people. It also shared news and views on the Israeli Food Tech Innovation Group on LinkedIn to help create awareness of the space among entrepreneurs and investors.
“Our mission was and still is to create a better food industry for a better world,” says Zaidman. “We’re like missionaries and talk to everyone we can about this space; we do a lot of leg wok in promoting the food tech sector.”
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Less than two years after launching, Israel’s foodtech industry has grown a lot with The Kitchen Hub’s 5th Annual FoodTech Symposium in Tel Aviv in September 2016 attracting over 600 attendees, according to Zaidman.
“This represented a leap forward for the local foodtech community, and the conversation has now completely changed; everyone is aware of and talking about foodtech, and how important each part of it is to the planet and humanity as well as a viable space for venture capital investment,” he says.
This journey was reflected in The Kitchen’s applications from startups; in the beginning, they received more applications from agriculture-focused ventures, and the technology typically focused on big data. “We still see these applications today, but the trend has shifted towards the food itself, including alternative proteins, technologies for sugar reduction, sodium reduction, more natural foods with higher nutritional values and less processing,” says Zaidman.
How Does The Kitchen Work?
Foodtech startups apply to join the incubator for 18 to 24 months, depending on the startup and its needs. Startups are brought on one-by-one and receive investment in return for a negotiable equity investment. Investments are typically around $500k but could increase if The Kitchen syndicates out a round to other investors in its network.
Because the incubator operates under the Incubators Program of the Israel Innovation Authority — the new name for the Office of the Chief Scientist, second-round applications will be reviewed by the authority before they’re confirmed.
If your startup does not have a solid technology backing it, then it needs to have a strong business idea related to the food itself. “We are working very hard to make sure that everyone knows that for any type of idea relating to food, they should be speaking to The Kitchen as the first stop,” says Zaidman.
Stage-wise, the incubator will take development stage companies preferably with some proof of concept or a prototype, although that might not always be the case.
“We know what we expect them to achieve during their incubation period and typically set significant milestones including market validation or a huge technological lift; something that creates a lot of value to help them raise the next round of financing.”
During their time at the incubator, startups will attend talks on building businesses from a variety of different professional speakers, spend time with the incubator staff for advice and brainstorming new ideas, and access to the Strauss Group.
This is perhaps the biggest benefit of them all as Strauss Group is Israel’s largest food company and the fourth largest coffee company in the world with a global reach. Startups in the incubator can get access to all different types of expertise within the group and can work on pilot projects or consult with the company.
“Strauss has no preferred type of collaboration so startups can work with them as partners, customers or consultants and they don’t have to if they don’t want to; there are no strings attached, and it will vary depending on the startup and their needs,” says Zaidman. “All the support, advice and knowhow from the Strauss-Group comes for free. It is a part of the service we provide. But incubator companies are free to collaborate with any food company in the world, even competitors to Strauss-Group.”
The Kitchen currently has six companies in the incubator and expects to bring on a new company in the cultured meat space in July, according to Zaidman.
The current companies are:
Yofix Pro-Biotics – a dairy free and soy-free platform for pre-biotic and pro-biotic, fermented foods.
Deep Learning Robotics – a robotics startup using machine vision and deep learning to create a “fast learning” robot that is specifically designed to tackle the challenges of the food industry.
Flying Spark – a fruit fly larvae producer developing alternative proteins for human consumption.
Bactusense – Rapid (minutes instead of days) detection of food pathogens such as Salmonella, and Listeria, promoting safer food and preventing unnecessary food recalls.
My FavorEats – A food personalization solution. Using machine learning and big-data algorithms to personalize on-line recipes to a user’s nutritional requirements or preferences.
Amai Proteins – is using Computational Protein Design (CPD) to manufacture new flavor ingredients.
To apply to join the incubator, click here.