Start-up pioneers organoid technology to make nature identical,
cultured eel meat at cost parity
Israel-based foodTech start-up Forsea Foods, the first company to use organoid technology for culturing seafood products, is on a mission to redress the destruction of marine life due to overfishing. As the
demand for eel meat keeps increasing in markets such as Europe and Asia, and it has become an endangered species, the company's first product will be eel.
Toward this effort, Forsea has raised USD5.2M in a seed round led by Berlin-based Target Global. The Kitchen FoodTech Hub; PeakBridge VC; Zora Ventures; FoodHack, and Milk&Honey Ventures also participated. The new funding will initially go towards growing cultivated eel meat in high demand for kabayaki and sushi. Target Global's contribution to this round marks one of its first investments in the foodTech industry.
One year ago, with support from the Israeli Innovation Authority (IIA) and The Kitchen Hub, the three co-founders—biotech engineer Roee Nir, MBA; Iftach Nachman, PhD; and Yaniv Elkouby, PhD founded the company. They devised the organoid approach to cultivating fish tissue that creates an ideal environment for fish cells to form their natural composition of native fat and muscle spontaneously. As a result, they grow as a three-dimensional tissue structure, as they would grow in nature. This technology bypasses the scaffolding stage and requires fewer bioreactors. This process is much simpler and more cost effective than traditional cell culturing. It also dramatically reduces the amount of expensive growth factors needed, making the final product more affordable.
"We are eager to take part in Forsea's quest to create sustainable, better-for-you seafood products that do not disrupt the biodiversity of the oceans," says Shmuel Chafets, Executive Chairman and founder of Target Global. "Forsea is poised to make a dramatic impact on the seafood ecosystem. Its pillar platform solves a bottleneck in the cultivated meat industry by creating affordable, ethical, cultivated seafood products that can replace vulnerable fish species."
Forsea will inaugurate its pilot plant during 2023. The plant will allow the company to create a preliminary design for a large-scale alpha production system, and to launch the company's first products. The start-up will invest the newly raised capital to accelerate R&D for both growing eel meat and developing the process for other fish species. Forsea will also improve and expand its core technology to enable organoid growth in large-scale bioreactors, while developing methods to increase production yield and profitability at a lower cost. These include perfecting a continuous feeding strategy and nutritional support. Recently Forsea expanded its R&D team and activities to Rehovot, in the heart of Israel's FoodTech valley.
"We are very excited to announce the completion of this funding round," states Roee Nir, CEO, a biotechnology engineer and co-founder of Forsea. "Our investors express their trust in our game-changing technology for producing seafood with a minimal footprint on the environment. The patented organoid technology allows us to contribute to a safe and more resilient food system that consumers demand."
"We are extremely pleased to invest in Forsea and welcome the company into our growing portfolio," comments Yoni Glickman, Managing Partner of FoodSparks by PeakBridge. "Forsea has demonstrated breakthrough technology, having recruited an experienced team to solve a significant problem in the food system caused by overfishing and habitat loss."
"Depletion of world fisheries is a major threat to our food security," adds Amir Zaidman, Chief Business Officer of The Kitchen Hub. "For this reason we teamed up with Nir and the founding team and backed Forsea from its inception at The Kitchen. We are proud to continue our support and to participate in the seed round of Forsea as it continues to attain its goals."
"We can produce a product identical in flavor, texture, appearance, and nutritional values to real eel," emphasizes Nir. "Organoid platform allows us to design the fish fillet exactly as it grows in the fish, that is, in a 3-dimensional structure, without growing the fat and muscle tissues separately."