With eels becoming endangered and demand for their meat increasing, an Israeli food-tech startup Forsea Foods has raised $5.2M in a seed round to address the problem.
Target Global, based in Berlin, led the seed round. The Kitchen FoodTech Hub, PeakBridge VC, Zora Ventures, FoodHack, and Milk & Honey Ventures also participated in the round. The new funds will be used to grow cultivated eel meat, which is in high demand for kabayaki and sushi. Target Global’s investment in this round is one of the company’s first in the food-tech industry.
Forsea Foods is the first company to cultivate seafood using organoid technology. Its goal is to reverse the devastation of marine life caused by overfishing. Forsea grows seafood, initially eel meat, without harming sea life in areas where demand is high, such as Asia and Europe.
Forsea was founded in October 2021 by three co-founders: biotech engineer Roee Nir, MBA; Iftach Nachman, PhD; and Yaniv Elkouby, PhD, with funding from the Israeli Innovation Authority (IIA) and The Kitchen Hub.
Nir, A biotech engineer with an MBA from NYU Stern, he has held executive positions in Foodtech, Biotech, and Digital Health companies for many years. Nachman, a senior researcher at Tel Aviv University, created the technology with the help of several grants from The Good Food Institute. Elkouby, a senior researcher at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a cell developmental biology expert, has spent decades researching piscine biology.
Forsea uses a non-GMO organoid platform to grow eel meat ex vivo as a three-dimensional tissue structure, just like it would in a living fish.
Tech at play
This technology skips the scaffolding stage and requires fewer bioreactors, making the process much simpler and less expensive than traditional cell culture. It also significantly reduces the number of costly growth factors required, making the final product more affordable. Iftach Nachman, co-founder of Forsea, created the organoid technology to alleviate the eel meat industry’s bottleneck.
“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.”
“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 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.
Forsea plans to open its pilot plant in 2023. The plant will enable the company to develop a preliminary design for a large-scale alpha production system as well as launch its first products. The newly raised capital will be used to accelerate R&D for both growing eel meat and developing the process for other fish species. Forsea will also enhance and expand its core technology to allow organoid growth in large-scale bioreactors, as well as develop methods to increase production yield and profitability at a lower cost. These include developing an effective continuous feeding strategy and providing nutritional support. Forsea recently relocated its R&D team and operations to Rehovot, in the heart of Israel’s FoodTech valley.