An Interview with GFI Israel Managing Director, Nir Goldstein
WHAT IS GFI? HOW IS YOUR WORK CONTRIBUTING TOWARDS THE ADOPTION OF ALTERNATIVE PROTEINS?
The Good Food Institute (GFI) is an international non-profit organization dedicated to re-imagining proteins. We focus on ground-breaking innovation and research, working with the government, universities, companies, startups, and investors. We aim to be a hub for innovation in the field. Currently, the academic sector has been left without significant funders for alternative protein research. That is why over 30% of the research in Israel is funded by GFI. In the space of alternative proteins, we are working not only with the governments of Israel and the most developed countries in the world, but also of developing countries when it comes to production and consumption.
CAN YOU SHARE YOUR KEY INSIGHTS FROM BEING PART OF THE ISRAELI DELEGATION TO GLASGOW?
Being a part of the formal delegation to Glasgow was a once-in-a lifetime experience. Glasgow was a massive event with over 30,000 people attending. Imagine a huge business event where instead of companies having booths, every country has a booth where they tell the world what it can do to combat climate change. Naturally, the vast majority did not take part in formal negotiations, so it was an honour to be with the formal delegation that took part in the decision-making that will influence this important topic.
Our journey actually began before we arrived. The Israeli delegation met several times to discuss mutual goals and define our standpoint. As part of this preparation process, I had the pleasure of presenting the importance of Alternative Proteins to the Israeli President, Isaac Herzog, and the Ministers of Environment and Energy.
WHAT EMERGED AS ISRAEL’S KEY STRENGTH, AND WHAT CAN YOU IDENTIFY AS AN AREA FOR IMPROVEMENT FOR THE FUTURE?
Participating in the delegation, I realized that Alternative Protein technologies are at the forefront of the Israeli story. This means we have made tremendous progress. In my opinion, one of the criticisms of the Israeli delegation is that we had been unable to highlight our leadership in technology and research, a matter I hope we can address and demonstrate during follow-up and future meetings.
CAN YOU ELABORATE ON THE POTENTIAL OF ALTERNATIVE PROTEINS AS A POTENTIAL SOLUTION FOR CLIMATE CHANGE CHALLENGES, AND, FROM GLASGOW, WHAT IS THE CURRENT GLOBAL RECOGNITION OF THIS POTENTIAL?
The industrial animal farming industry accounts for over 14.5% of greenhouse gas emissions, and with Alternative Proteins, we can reduce that by over 90%. It is, therefore, very obvious that Alternative Proteins represent an effective climate solution. Moreover, it is essential to recognize that the climate crisis is not only about warming, but also the loss of biodiversity, water scarcity, food insecurity, and antibiotic resistance. Alternative proteins can make great improvements across the board, a fact that governments are now beginning to recognize.
Despite this, my perspective following Glasgow is that we are still at the beginning of a shift in how countries think about solving the environmental problems we face, including pushing forward adoption of alternative protein solutions. On the bright side, governments across the globe have started to take proactive steps to promote alternative protein research and innovation, including substantial investment. For example, Denmark has just invested EUR 160 m. into Alternative Protein funding. Singapore is now a leader in regulating new ingredients, and the UK has recently announced an investment of over GBP100 m. Yet there is still a long way to go to convert this huge potential into reality.
HOW DO YOU SEE THE ROLE OF VCS IN THE ALTERNATIVE PROTEIN REVOLUTION?
A lack of academic funding is causing a serious bottleneck in the industry. Unlike cyber security, for example, it is not enough to have a laptop to start a company in FoodTech. Research takes years before you can find innovation and only then can you build a company. To remove this bottleneck, governments must be involved. Yet, as this is not enough to push science at the rate we would like it to progress, I think the venture capital community can assist with early-stage funding and mentoring of technologies developing at the leading universities. PeakBridge is setting an example of how the venture capital system can facilitate transition of technology from universities to the world beyond. Building an exceptional team with domain expertise unmatched by any other VC firm, Peakbridge can be influential in driving the future of innovation of alternative proteins.
About GFI Israel
The Good Food Institute Israel (GFI Israel) is a science-based non-profit organization set up to accelerate ground-breaking alternative protein research and innovation in Israel. We collaborate with partners in the scientific, governmental, and business sectors to build a sustainable, healthy and just global food system. GFI Israel was established in 2019 to leverage Israeli innovation and scientific expertise in order to support GFI’s global ambitions.
About Nir Goldstein
Nir is the Managing Director of GFI Israel. Before GFI, he worked as a consultant to startups, investors, government agencies, food manufacturers, and NGOs at TASC and LEC, focusing on the Agrifood sector. He is a Fellow at the Heschel Center for Sustainability and a member of the Israeli Bar, previously working at the Ministry of Justice and practising intellectual property law at S. Horowitz. He holds an LLB law degree and an MBA from The Hebrew University in Jerusalem.