Israeli dairy innovation: From humble to high-tech

Israel's dairy scene might not be on your radar, but industry leaders worldwide are learning from Israel's success.
Solato, the Israeli gelato machine

Israel is known for its high-tech innovations, earning its reputation as the Startup Nation. But did you know that the Jewish state has also made huge waves in the dairy industry?

In recent years, Israel’s dairy farming technologies have become world-renowned, with delegations visiting from around the world to learn Israeli techniques, like this industry leader from Turkey: 

The busiest and most lucrative time of year for the dairy industry in Israel is Shavuot. In fact, dairy farms in Israel begin increasing production in preparation for this cheesy holiday as early as 5 months before it is celebrated.

So, in anticipation of the cheesecake-infused holiday, I went on a deep-dive to explore Israeli innovation in the dairy industry from genealogy to gelato. Here’s what I discovered about this lesser-known side of Israel.

The origins of Israel’s dairy industry

But first, how did Israel’s dairy industry come to be? At the start of the 20th century, there were around 1,000 cows in Israel, according to the Israeli Dairy School, which offers seminars to train farmers and companies on dairy farming methods. 

By 1912, two new herds of cattle were brought to Israel for milk production and the industry was beginning to grow.

Fast forward two decades, and by 1930, Israel had over 33,000 cows, and the annual milk production jumped from around 2,500 liters to 75 million liters! 

The demand for dairy increased with the large waves of immigration to Israel in the 1950s. There was also a need for regulation of the industry. In 1956, the Israeli Dairy Board was founded to regulate dairy farming and the industry in general.

As Israel’s dairy industry grew, so did the technological advancements. One of Israel’s first major dairy technologies was founded in 1977.

Farmer Peleg Orion sits next to his cows in the stable. Together with six other farmers, Orion has 700 dairy cows. On average, Israeli dairy cows produce the most milk worldwide. About 120,000 dairy cows live in Israel. (Photo by Stefanie Järkel/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Afimilk, an advanced computerized system used for dairy farming and herd management, has become a leader in the development of the modern dairy farm.

They introduced the world’s first electronic milk meter and the first pedometer to monitor cows and provide vital real-time information about their health, fertility, and productivity. Currently, over 15,000 farms worldwide use this Israeli technology, monitoring a total of 10 million cows. 

With Afamilk and other technological breakthroughs, the industry hit its stride in the 1990s. Israeli milk production reached record-setting highs, surpassing 1 billion liters annually for the first time. Israel was really becoming a land flowing with milk and honey.

Today, the yield of a single cow in Israel is currently ranked one of the highest in the world. In 2010, Israel was ranked second in the world only behind Saudi Arabia by two liters per cow.

Source: FAOstat 2012

How does the Jewish state lead the world in average milk yield? 

Israel has something called the “herd book,” which is a record of 80% of the cows in Israel. This database means that Israel is able to track the history, genealogy, milk yield and other important data about each cow.

The herd book, which was introduced in the mid-1900s, has played a key role in helping Israel become a global leader in dairy farming. Attention to detail and a data-driven approach have been key to Israel’s success and high milk production rates.

Israel also uses the database to track fertility for the use of artificial insemination to breed cows, Dairy farmers in Israel track the cow’s reproductive cycle in order to optimize insemination, enabling increased milk production.

Currently, Israeli supermarket shelves feature over 800 varieties of dairy products ranging from butter and cheeses to chocolate milk in a bag. Here are four of the biggest dairy innovations in Israel responsible for the industry’s success:

Tnuva: Unifying Israel’s dairy 

Tnuva milk

Tnuva, Israel’s largest food manufacturer, was established in the late 1920s as a milk distributor when Israel’s moshavim (agricultural villages) and kibbutzim decided to unify dairy production.

As the company grew, they continued to introduce farm-fresh products including cheeses and eggs. Today, Tnuva is the parent company to dozens of Israeli food manufacturers.

Tnuva is an industry leader in manufacturing innovative milk products. One way they have improved milk is through its nutritional value.

They recently released Chalav HaMesehek (farm milk) which is especially rich in Omega-3. They enhance the milk’s nutritional value through the food that the cows are fed — in this case, they feed the cows flax!

Paulee CleanTec: From trash to treasure

Did you know that dairy farming is a significant contributor to the world’s growing waste problem? According to studies, one dairy farm with 2,500 cows produces as much waste as a city with around 411,000 residents.

In 2008, Paulee CleanTec was founded to solve this problem. The company works to create effective, sustainable solutions for managing human and animal waste. 

Specifically, they created a technology that turns animal waste, like that of cows, into fertilizer in a matter of seconds. Using their patent-protected exothermic oxidation process, they expose waste to their oxidizer agent.

As temperatures rise, the liquids vaporize leaving a dry ash-like powder which is nontoxic and a very nutritious fertilizer. Through Paulee CleanTec’s process, they can turn waste from dairy farms into valuable resources in a quick, safe and inexpensive way. 

Solato: On-demand fresh artisan gelato

A recent Israeli dairy innovation comes in the form of an innovative gelato experience. Israeli entrepreneur Barak Beth Halachmi was inspired by Keurig and Nespresso, which take pods and turn them into delicious hot coffee. He applied this model to gelato and took it one step further. 

Instead of a pod of coffee, he and his team at Solato created a device that takes a specially-crafted capsule of dairy and churns out fresh gelato in a matter of seconds. 

Founded in 2012 and recently released for commercial use, the Solato machine makes fresh artisan gelato with the click of a button, is sleek, and sits on a counter. The company is also passionate about the environment: their capsules are recyclable as opposed to the aluminum and plastic pods found in similar machines.

Solato pods use 85% less energy consumption and have 95% less carbon footprint compared to other capsules, allowing consumers to feel better about the delicious ice cream they are eating.

Currently, Solato machines are only available for businesses but there is a waiting list for those who want to buy one for their home. 

Remilk: The dairy-free milk innovator

With all of this talk of dairy, you may be wondering: what innovations has Israel offered in the dairy-alternative scene? Tel Aviv is known as the vegan capital of the world, so it’s no surprise that the Jewish state is a major innovator in non-dairy milk products as well.

The Israeli company Remilk is paving the way for sustainable real dairy that is made without animals. Remilk uses microbial fermentation to manufacture milk that mimics the flavor, nutritional composition and functionality of dairy milk without the use of animals.

Remilk was the first company of its kind to receive approval from the Israeli Ministry of Health. According to their website:

“This has cleared a path for the marketing and sale of non-animal dairy products for Israeli consumers. It also establishes the country as one of the first in the world to offer people access to sustainable, real dairy made without cows and free of lactose, cholesterol, antibiotics and growth hormones.”

Remilk isn’t the only revolutionary dairy-free milk startup that was founded in Israel. Imagindairy, an Israeli startup, created a dairy-free milk alternative using fermentation and AI. Through recreating the proteins found in milk, without the use of animals, they have created a lactose-free, growth hormone-free dairy product.

Else Nutrition created the first dairy-free alternative to baby formula that is clean label and a healthy alternative to dairy and highly processed baby nutrition.

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