As part of the Israel national operational plan led by the Israel Innovation Authority, to maintain and expand the strength of its developmental ecosystem in the field of alternative proteins, the Authority has announced a new RFP for the establishment of infrastructures for precision fermentation of microorganisms to develop alternative proteins.
Fermentation technology in general, and precision fermentation specifically, are an important building block in this field, both as a means to manufacture proteins and other nutrients for the food industry, as the main method for manufacturing dedicated and vital nutrients for cultured proteins and as components to enrich plant-based meat and dairy alternatives.
In 2021 alone, worldwide investment in fermentation technologies amounted to $1.69 billion, a 285 percent increase over 2020. For comparison, between 2013 and 2021, the total invested in this field amounted to $2.81 billion. Fermentation technology is an important building block in alternative proteins field, both on its own for manufacturing proteins and other nutrients for the food industry, and as the main method for manufacturing designated and vital nutrients in the field of cultured proteins and components to enrich plant-based meat and dairy alternatives.
Fermentation infrastructures will allow upscaling in volume along with technical-economic viability experiments for the first time in Israel, and creation of larger batches to allow testing of products among potential customers. Creating R&D infrastructures of this type in Israel will allow many projects to continue the necessary research and development here, and in the future, to establish local manufacturing plants. It will also assist in obtaining regulatory food certifications for the nutrients manufactured using fermentation technologies.
Dror Bin, CEO of the Israel Innovation Authority: “Israel has marked the foodtech industry, which could yield 55,000 high-paying jobs to the economy by the year 2030, as an R&D priority. The Innovation Authority has supported the foodtech industry over the past decade with over NIS 230 million in grants, over 140 million of which has been in the field of alternative proteins. Notably, approximately 90 percent of this support has been allocated since the beginning of 2020 – further testimony to the growth of this ecosystem in Israel. We hope that this infrastructure for precision fermentation of microorganisms for food purposes will help maintain the strength of the Israeli ecosystem and accelerate development of startups and companies working toward scale-up solutions in this field.”
The alternative protein sector has grown significantly in recent years and is expected to achieve high growth rates in the years to come. Environmental and climate impacts of increased demand for animal-based foods and industrial agriculture as part of the expected population growth, alongside a concern for food production security are accelerating the development of technologies and products in this field. In response to this need, there has been an increase in the field of alternative proteins (and in the field of non-protein nutrients), using synthetic biology methods which make use of substitute microorganisms as manufacturing systems (food coloring, fats with animal fat structure, enzymes for food manufacturing, flavorings and more).
Alternative proteins can be divided into four main categories: plant- and protein-based meat and dairy alternatives (e.g., pea protein); cell-cultured meat and dairy alternatives (the Innovation Authority recently funded the largest consortium of its type to streamline the manufacturing process of cultured meat); animal- and plant-based proteins and components manufactured by microorganisms (for which this infrastructure is designed ); and protein and components derived from insects as an alternative food source (a month ago the Authority announced the funding of a black soldier fly consortium to promote such technology).
The Innovation Authority is working concurrently to promote all these technologies to maintain and promote Israeli industry at the forefront of this global sector. From among the four categories of alternative proteins, fermentation technology has the highest market growth potential and the greatest ability for multiple companies to take advantage of shared R&D facilities. Fermentation manufacturing methods can be divided into three subcategories based on their technological intensity:
- Traditional fermentation: fermentation of animal- and plant-based protein to alter flavor, texture or nutritional value (e.g., beer, yogurt, wine, soy sauce etc.).
- Microorganism fermentation to create biomass: taking advantage of the rapid growth rate of microorganisms to create large mass which itself is used as a nutrient or a protein.
- Precision fermentation: genetic substitution of microorganisms for the creation of animal-based protein to create alternatives that are similar to animal-based products (egg yolks, milk, etc.) and/or manufacturing specific nutrients for the food industry (food coloring, animal-based fats, enzymes, unique sugars, etc.).
This article was first published on 3 January by ISERD.