As foodtech innovation goes, Israeli startup hub The Kitchen definitely has an eye for the “hot button” issues of in the food world, whether it’s sustainability, accessibility, better production, or health. It’s already invested in Meat the Future, who wants to find a better way to provide meat products to the world, and Amai Proteins, who uses biotech to create more environmentally friendly taste proteins.
The hub’s latest two investments, which were just announced, continue that trend, with projects that address possibly two of the most hotly discussed topics of the day: pesticides and sugar.
Inspecto has developed a portable kit that can be used for early detection of pesticides and other contaminants in food. The company claims its product will, once it hits the market, provide a much more affordable way to detect such things. Users operate a portable scanner to detect pesticides or contaminants, then analyze the results, which they get in real time. There’s no sending samples to a lab or getting other third parties involved.
Inspecto also wants to make the kit available up and down the food supply chain. Farmers would be able to measure the amount of pesticide residue on crops and ensure the levels adhere to regulations. Supermarkets could use the device to check for contaminated products before they hit the shelves. There’s even the possibility of using it at border patrol, so that food with contaminants or high pesticide levels can’t enter the country.
Inspecto is currently testing two pilot cases of its product: one in partnership with Strauss’s coffee program, and one with Shinho, a Chinese condiment company. The company wants to have kits available to customers within six to 12 months.
Meanwhile, Better Juice is tackling the ongoing concerns about sugar in fruit juice—a topic debated by everyone from medical practitioners to news organizations and soccer moms.
The startup is using sugar-reduction technology to create an enzymatic process that joins the sugar molecules in fruit juice, so that they form one long chain of fibers or carbohydrates. The result is a low-sugar, high-fiber juice, which basically solves the two biggest gripes about fruit juice out there right now.
The technology is currently in beta form, and Better Juice has used it on apple and orange juice. No word yet on the juice’s actual tastes or when it might become a more widely available process, but the mere fact that it’s possible to get low-sugar, high-fiber juice is an encouraging thought.
Outside of those two companies, Israel in general is becoming an important center for food technology, with some even claiming it’s in “the top five of countries in terms of food-tech innovation.” Late last year, researchers as the Hebrew University of Jerusalem introduced a patent-pending process for 3D-printing entire meals using nanocellulose. Just this month, SuperMeat raised $3 million in funding for its lab-made chicken. And The Kitchen has other investments in tech companies that address everything from food safety to finding alternative protein in fruit fly larvae.
“I am particularly interested to look at how agricultural and food ventures will transition to the digital world, adopting technologies such as machine learning and blockchain as the entire food industry becomes more advanced,” one Israeli VC recently noted. Given all these new developments, there should be plenty to watch over the next 12 months.