This high-tech kitchen is cooking up something new
How one international company is encouraging new ideas to help better the food industry.
Food is all about community. Whether gathering around a table with loved ones or dining out with friends, a good meal is as much about human relationships as it is about what's on the menu. So it made sense that The Kitchen FoodTech Hub incubator program, which wants to redefine the food industry, would take this as the central theme of their project.
"We're trying to create a community. We want entrepreneurs to come enjoy what they're doing, for the experience to be great," Amir Zaidman, vice president of business development for the hub, told From The Grapevine during a recent visit to their headquarters in Ashdod, Israel.
With this in mind, the year-old hub has signed four startups – with plans to add four more each year – with vastly different concepts and brought them to Ashdod, where they can develop products and collaborate with one another. A large communal table encourages this cross-collaboration, and the office is more reminiscent of a co-working space than a traditional subdivided corporate office.
This atmosphere is meant to encourage the completion of a not-so-simple mandate: solving the many problems faced by the food industry.
And there are many, many problems, starting with the disparity between the first and third world's food supply.
"Half of [the world] is hungry and the other half is obese," explained Zaidman. "These guys over here don't have enough food and these guys over here have the wrong kind of food."
But Zaidman said this is just one of the many problems the food industry faces that the hub wants to help solve.
"We want to help the food industry – not only with the food supply, but to make it more efficient and less damaging to the environment. So we want to address all of these issues – environmental issues and reducing food waste. For example, in the Western World 35 percent of the food is wasted, so we need to improve packaging and shelf life," explained Zaidman.
Israel's Kitchen FoodTech Hub believes the best way of tackling these problems globally is by zeroing in on potential technological solutions, and then nurturing them along.
"Our focus isn't culinary. We are into deep technologies. It's not in the kitchen or recipes that we're working. We're not looking so much into agriculture," Zaidman explained, saying that he sees the hub as working in the "post-harvest to plate" stages of the food production process.
The startups are already reaping the benefits of the support the hub is providing. Yofix, which is working on a line of vegan lactose-free products that offer the same nutritional benefits as their dairy counterparts, plans to start selling yogurt in select stores this summer.
Carlos Benaim, the CEO and founder of Deep Learning Robotics, which is building "smart" robots for production purposes, said his experience at the hub has been invaluable.
"It's been great," he said. "It's a win-win situation for somebody in the stage I was in [before] that I could not even dream of. On the one hand, of course there is the financial part, but there's also the know-how and people I have access to."
The hub is the brainchild of Israel-based food manufacturer Strauss Group, known to Americans for their popular Sabra hummus and other Mediterranean products. The hub gives each startup two years to achieve a commercial milestone, meaning finding investors – whether it be Strauss or someone else.
"Whether they are good for Strauss is irrelevant. We are interested in investing in the best food tech startups in Israel," said Zaidman. "After two years the startups can choose to work with Strauss, with their competition, with somebody outside of the country."
It all comes back to community, however. The Kitchen FoodTech hub's real goal is to jumpstart domestic innovation that'll attract global interest, creating an international network of likeminded people who want to make a better world through better food. And that's something everyone should want to invest in.
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Related Topics: Food News