What do tea, biscuits, and a peanut butter sandwich all have in common? Each tastes better with a bit of honey. For time immemorial, people have enjoyed the taste and health benefits of the thick, sticky food. Samson loved it so much that he composed a riddle about it, much to his later regret. Although honey has been around since the creation of bees, the desire for this wonderful, natural sweetener has been skyrocketing over the past few years. Already a $9.08 billion market globally, the demand is growing by 8 percent annually.i The problem is that the population of bees has been in a shockingly rapid decline with a nearly 50 percent loss since the 1980s.ii This has caused great concerns within the agricultural community not just because of the decrease in honey production, but because bees are responsible for 75 percent of plant fertilization in nature. As Albert Einstein once said, “If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe then man would only have four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man.”iii
What can be done to meet this increasing demand for honey while still protecting the current bee population? Israeli brother and sister team Ofir Dvash and Efrat Dvash-Riesenfeld have a solution. Their father is a tomato grower in the southern Israel moshav of Hatzav. It was there that they learned about bees and pollination. Later, after Ofir had served time in IDF Unit 81, an elite special operations technology unit of the Israeli military, he was approached with an idea by a small group of foodtech entrepreneurs. Ofir was immediately hooked and he quickly brought in his sister, Efrat, who has a PhD in Molecular Genetics from the Weizmann Institute of Science and is a Postdoctoral Fellow (metabolism and immunology) from Harvard Medical School.iv Together, they founded Bee-io, a company that has become the leader in what they call cultured honey.
By mixing together various chemicals, any scientific Tom, Dick, or Shlomo can create a honey knock-off. But it will have the taste, consistency, and negative health effects of exactly what it is – a mixture of various chemicals. Cultured honey, however, is a brilliant new process to create real honey extracted from real nectar, just minus the bees. Now, before you get too concerned that Bee-io is looking to put real bees out of business, fear not. There will be no bees in the unemployment line or riding the rails with a bindle resting on their shoulders. The goal for this technology is not to replace bee-produced honey, but to supplement it in order to reach the ever-expanding market while aiding in the protection and revitalization of the current bee population.
How does one make cultured honey? It begins by withdrawing nectar from natural sources, although the company is currently developing a process to produce their own nectar. Once gathered, the nectar is filtered, cleaning it of contaminates, pesticides, and any other unwanted substance. It then goes through processing using a patented biosynthesis method, which transforms the nectar into honey. Finally, the product enters a period of evaporation to remove excess liquid, and then the honey is ready. Manufacturing the cultured honey is quick, fairly inexpensive, and sustainable, and gives a delicious product that is free of antibiotics, toxins, and pesticides.v Best of all, there are no negative consequences to the fragile bee population.
It’s hard to imagine a world without honey, and it’s impossible to imagine a world without bees. Bee-io, another innovative Israeli company, is pioneering technology to ensure that the world’s biscuits will never be bare and its hives will always remain full and active.
i “Bee Tech Company Bee-Io Honey Joins TASE At Value Of Over $11M.” NoCamels, 26 May 2021, nocamels.com/2021/05/bee-io-honey-merge-whitestone-group/.
ii Ashkenazi, Shani. “A Land Flowing with Artificial Honey.” Globes, Globes, 10 June 2021, en.globes.co.il/en/article-a-land-flowing-with-artificial-honey-1001374121.
iii “Bee-Io.” Beeio, bee-io.com/.