WHY A FOODTECH COMPANY?
My path into the FoodTech industry was sheer serendipity. During the previous years, I worked in areas very close to FoodTech, such as the dietary supplements industry.
Around two years ago, I met PeakBridge Co-Founder Nadav Berger in a coffee shop to discuss the opportunities ahead. This was after my stint at Algatechnologies as VP of Business Development. Nadav suggested I met a few people from the FoodTech industry. From there, everything moved very quickly, and I found myself co-founding Imagindairyi.
I was drawn into FoodTech partly because of my diet, which I thought about a great deal. I know how hard it was for me to change my diet, and I imagine many people are the same. I was used to eating a variety of dairy products and wanted to go on doing so but had to change my diet for health and conscience reasons. Imagindairy allows people to consume their favourite dairy foods without compromising on flavour and nutritional value, while maintaining their health sustainably. To do that, we use a precision-fermentation approach to producing whey and casein equivalents to those found in animal-based dairy. Our proprietary technology integrates AI, machine learning, and molecular biology across the all the R&D development stages to produce milk proteins that can be applied to a wide variety of dairy products.
WHAT TRENDS DO YOU BELIEVE WILL BE EVOLVING IN FOODTECH IN THE NEXT FIVE YEARS?
In a future timeframe of 5–10 years, the whole food industry will look different from so many aspects. The way we buy, consume and produce food will change for the better. I am very excited about precision fermentation, simply because nobody has yet succeeded in unlocking its huge potential. The production cost of the technology behind producing structural proteins such as meat or egg, of which a high percentage is part of the finished product, is still too high for the mass market. When we understand how to solve the cost barrier, it will open the door to a new market and definitely change the food industry entirely.
HOW DID YOU ADJUST YOUR STRATEGY IN 2021?
Our strategy evolved with the pandemic since we actually founded the company in the same month COVID-19 broke out in Israel. So, from the beginning, we worked with COVID-19 as part of our day-to-day life. When we had just started, we established a dairy application lab in one of our employees’ home kitchens, so she could stay with her kids during lockdown and still work. In fact, our very first cheese prototype was developed in her kitchen. It was great to see our team being so creative when we lacked regular conditions.
WHAT IS A LESSON YOU HAVE LEARNED FROM LEADING A COMPANY DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC?
I think that COVID-19 made startups much more efficient. As CEO, I had to be very clear with messaging and setting expectations during the pandemic. The fact that the employees were not in physical contact could make verbal and non-verbal cues hard to understand. We must be clear online to make everyone understand our points, goals, and expectations.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO A FOODTECH STARTUP FOUNDER TODAY?
Be excited about what you do, then choose the right people to work with. Working at startup companies sometimes feels like riding a roller coaster — there are great times and challenging times. I do believe that to overcome such challenges, you must have a strong, independent team, which is what we have at Imagindairy.
About Eyal Afergan
I have two young daughters.
I also have a B.Sc. in Biochemical Engineering from the Technion, and a Ph.D. in Pharmaceuticals from the Hebrew University, after which I worked as product manager and later VP of Global Sales at Enzymotec. After that, I joined Aglgatech, an expert in microalgae cultivation, where I was the VP of Business Development. Finally, in 2020 I Founded Imagindairy with Prof.Tamir Tuller, a portfolio company of FoodSparks® by PeakBridge.