Israeli startups tackle fish alternatives

With fish reserves depleted in the oceans, “Globes” focuses on five Israeli startups developing cultured and plant-based fish.

Five Israeli startups have been founded in the food alternatives fish market over the past year – four developing lab-grown cultured fish and one developing plant-based fish. Investment has grown tenfold over the past two years as the global fisheries market sees a major shortage in fish and huge damage to the environment by the fisheries industry.Sea2Cell

Sea2Cell, which is developing cultured blue tuna, was founded in September 2021 in the Fresh Start food-tech incubator in Kiryat Shmona by Avishai Levy, Dr. Itai Tzchori, Pablo Resnik, Prof. Berta Sivan and Dr. Orna Harel. The company has raised NIS 3.5 million.

Prof. Sivan came to the fish alternatives sector from the fish industry itself. As a professor of biology at the Hebrew University Faculty of Agriculture she set up a company for accelerating the fish farming process. She was involved in another project in Africa to advance fish farming of carp in pools. But she believes wild fish should be left alone.

She said, “Fish are the only animals that we still hunt as well as farm, We go out in boats to sea and the oceans and are creating a catastrophe. In the Mediterranean 90% of the fish have disappeared and the situation is not very encouraging in the oceans. Even those who earn their livelihood from fishing understand today that this cannot continue.”

Prof. Sivan has gained major knowhow in isolating cells from living tissues of fish in order to raise them. She was approached by Dr. Orna Harel who for years had been thinking about developing cultured fish. They were joined by Dr. Itai Tzchori, an expert in fish stem cells and Pablo Resnik who has been involved in international trade in fish and seafood. They set up the start up in the Fresh Start incubator, a partnership of Tnuva, Tempo, OurCrowd and Finister.

While stem cells of mammals have been produced for many years, partly in research institutes, there are very few fish stem cells produced. Sea2Cell is first of all building a massive stem cell production capacity, which can be transferred under concessions for other companies to manufacture the products. The aim is blue tuna. “Prof. Sivan said, “Even if we prevent the killing of one tuna, we would have achieved something.”

Tuna is overfished worldwide and attempts to raise them in captivity have failed.

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