Israel enjoying resurgence of agri-food tech innovation
Yaakov Nahmias, founder and chief scientist of Future Meat Technologies, holds laboratory-grown fat samples in his lab in Jerusalem
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Over 350 hi-tech firms operate in the agri-food field, with approximately one-third established during the past five years.
Israel is enjoying a resurgence of agricultural and food tech innovation, grabbing the attention of the world’s largest multinationals in the field, a new report has revealed.According to data published by non-profit Start-Up Nation Central, the country’s agri-food tech sector is taking advantage of scientific advances and quickly gaining momentum in its efforts to disrupt global food production.More than 350 hi-tech firms operate in the agri-food field, with approximately one-third established during the past five years. Since 2016, 124 start-ups were founded – exceeding the total number of companies established in the previous six years.
In 2018, agri-food firms secured $103 million in equity investment, putting Israel on par with, and even exceeding, far larger countries including Australia and India. Funding records have already been broken again this year, with investments reaching $115m. by September. Companies including DouxMatok, Aleph Farms and Fieldin have led the largest investment rounds.Israel is well-known for its “first wave” of agricultural innovation, notably the invention of drip irrigation to overcome the country’s arid environment, and the development of cherry tomatoes. Irrigation company Netafim, dairy cow monitoring developer SCR and flavor firm Frutarom are just some of the leading Israeli companies that have become synonymous with agricultural technology.The new generation of agri-food tech companies, dubbed a “second wave” of agricultural innovation by Start-Up Nation Central, is based on big data analysis, sensors, biotech and robotics. Innovative solutions often focus on smart yield management, pathogen control and alternative food sources – notably for animal protein and sugar consumption.“We see a transition from food security to nutritional security, and growing interest not only in increasing yield and profit, but also in health and sustainability. Data is transforming this industry,” said Tamar Weiss, Agri-Food Tech Sector development manager at Start-Up Nation Central. Responding to the second wave of growth in the agri-food tech sector, representatives from the world’s largest food and agriculture multinationals will participate in Israel’s AgriFood Week, commencing Sunday in Tel Aviv.Companies showing an interest in local innovation include Pepsi, Bayer, AB InBev, BASF, Mondelez, Cargill, Nestle and Syngenta.According to Start-Up Nation Central, recent developments in the agri-food tech sector have largely been driven by a combination of financial capital through government support – primarily through the Israel Innovation Authority – and entrepreneurs with a mixture of experience in farming, the IDF and academia. In a recent study of the sector carried out by the organization, 29% of responding companies said their solutions emerged from their founders’ military background – most frequently by ICT-focused start-ups. Half the companies said they had formal collaborations with academia, and 51% had founders who came from a kibbutz.