Israel a Hotbed for Agricultural Innovation
Israel a Hotbed for Agricultural Innovation

TEL AVIV—Two great features of Israel—tech startups and advanced farming techniques—are combining to create a new world of high-tech agriculture.
Increasingly, both in Israel and in other countries, crop cultivation doesn’t take place in open fields and doesn’t use rainwater as the main source of irrigation.

Nowadays, tomatoes and peppers often never see any soil; instead they are watered and fertilized by drip irrigation pipes in computerized green houses.

The many agricultural innovations presented in December at the Agrivest conference in Tel Aviv, Israel, included a natural alternative to pesticides and a computer program that can analyze seeds. Investors from all over the world looking for profitable opportunities in new agriculture startups visited the Agrivest conference in Tel Aviv, Israel, in December to witness Israel’s innovations first-hand.

Israeli agricultural startups are successfully tackling problems faced by the industry, but a good idea, even if proven viable, is often not guaranteed success.
Both funding and long-term financial sustainability are great barriers for entrepreneurs and startups. Will Israel’s high-tech agricultural industry be as successful as its IT and medical equipment industries?

Trendlines Agtech-Mofet is a venture capital firm that invests in high-promise medical and agricultural technological innovations. Trendlines CEO Nitza Kardish explained that because of the tough farming conditions, Israel has 100 years’ experience of tackling agricultural problems–heat, salinity and drought–that today are experienced globally. 

She said: “The world population is rising and resources are in decline, conventional agriculture will not provide food for the 9 billion people expected in the next few decades. Israel has the know-how both in agriculture and in high-tech that can improve living conditions.”


Israel’s Technology Incubators

According to Kardish, the success of Israel’s high-tech industry is due to the strong involvement of the government’s Technological Incubators Program. The government takes most of the risk, funding innovative technological ideas that may be too risky for private investors. After the incubation term, the ventures should be able to operate profitably on their own.

The Technological Incubators Program was established in 1991 by the government’s Ministry of Economy’s Office of the Chief Scientist during a wave of immigration from the former USSR. Many of these Russian immigrants were highly skilled, but remained unemployed. The program gave new emigrant scientists the opportunity to continue working in their preferred fields of research. In time, as the number of Russian migrants dropped and the program’s original goals were reached, it opened up to non-immigrants.

Over the past few years, the program has established 70-80 high-tech startups annually. It  has expanded beyond medicine and IT and increasingly includes agricultural developments.


EdenShield: Learning from the desert plants

Conventional chemical pesticides have for some time become increasingly ineffective when used on vegetable crops. As a result, Israel’s export of spices has suffered at the hands of pests such as thrips, whiteflies, and red spider mites, which have developed a resistance to the chemical pesticides.

Chemical engineer Yaniv Kitron, EdenShield’s Founder and CEO, explained how his company has found a natural solution.

Researchers have found that pests do not target certain plants in the Judean desert. EdenShield uses extracts from such plants to mask the odor of plants the pests are interested in. The product is sprayed on greenhouse netting, changing the odor and making the crop “invisible” to the pest. As it is not sprayed directly onto the crops, it has no effect on the plants themselves.


Plantarray: Software to analyze seeds 

The water scarcity experienced in many countries around the word is a challenge to seed companies. They are increasingly being asked to produce seeds with a higher level of water efficiency.

In breeding plants, the process of selecting those with desirable characteristics consumes much time and resources. 

Professor Menachem Moshelion at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and engineer Roni Wallach created intelligent software that can analyze seeds and deliver large quantities of results quickly. Selecting seeds can take a few weeks where it used to take a few months.


Big Data Project

Kardish also talked about a “big-data” project being proposed to the ministries of economy, finance, and agriculture. 

The amount of agricultural data collected–by private farmers, research institutes, weather forecasters, and government institutions–is huge. Kardish said that compiling all that information would create an invaluable resource to inform future development.


*Image of an olive grove in Israel via Shutterstock.


  • konspikuous

    The world can do without stories that promote terrorist states.

    • Dan H

      The world can do without ignorant low IQ comments

      • konspikuous

        Then why on Earth did you post one?

        But go on, defend a nation with a ridiculous amount of human rights violations, trespasses into other nations, political abductions, land grabs, and, yes, outright terrorism.

        • Dan H

          My internet friend, if you would like to debate politics a little deeper, then feel free to send your contact details and we can discuss like rational human beings rather than hiding behind the shadows like low IQ/EQ ignorant people do. Israel is my home so it’s natural I’ll defend it. You know that place where you raise your children. I’m sure you’re rational enough to understand that but then….

          To suggest that the entire state of Israel, one of the few democratic states in the ME and Africa right now not engaged in murdering each other is a “terrorist state” is a little difficult for any logical mind to take serious. Having said that my friend, Israel and therefore the majority of her inhabitants (the Jews) are engaged in a 3,000 year old battle with people like you, but I’m sure you knew that anyway. Your low IQ/EQ anti-semitism has driven us to this point where we’ve had to adapt and thus use all means available to survive in a horrific neighbourhood. Human rights for Jews (what we really mean when say Israel) the last 3,000 years at the hands of low IQ/EQ people has been non existant. Think of the many attempted genocides, persecutions, expulsions we’ve faced at the hands of jealous individuals that failed to make such an impression on the world.

          So in a way you’re absolutely correct, we violate “animal” rights to defend our “human” rights. We take territory to defend our territory after mutliple “animal” attacks upon us. If you don’t like that then that’s your problem. We’re not going anywhere as you’ll see from our mighty scientific endevours across many disciplines. In fact my friend unfortunately for you we’re only getting smarter, stronger, more resilient and more unified. The more your kind persecutes us, the smarter we get. Call it genetic evolution if you will.

          • konspikuous

            Too many eye rolls in one scree to bother with…but very well.

            Being politically opposed to the practices of the state of Israel…DOES NOT equate into anything remotely anti-Semite. (further, ‘Jews’ are the smallest population of Semites on the planet. Anytime a Jew harms a descendent of Shem, it is anti-Semitism. And yes, Arabs are such people.

            You mention democracy…but make no apologies for failing to stop inhumane practices. So, that leaves you with egg on your face, or an endorsement of those practices.

            And then there’s the want of putting yourself in a superior position. If your IQ is above average, what are you doing engaging in anyone you believe beneath you? You could have presented a challenge for one to think smarter, but no, you, repeatedly, went for the insult. Which, not only speaks toward your character, it is a projection of your limited capabilities.

            Genetic evolution….lol. Yes, acts of brutality, inferiority complexes, extreme indulngence of the ego…yes, that’s sooooo evolved. And please, read human history. Jews are hardly the only people who have ever been persecuted by an opposition. I recommend you look into who slaughtered the Canaanites.

            Good day.

          • Dan H

            You are entitled to be “politically opposed” to the state of Israel. But then we’re entitled to be opposed to people like you who are opposed to our existence as a state. Trying to keep Jews & Israel seperate makes you look silly. 75% of Israel is made up of Jews, therefore if you oppose the state of Israel, you oppose the Jews. You talk about “inhumane practices” whilst completely ignoring Sunni/Shia “inhumane practices” occuring as we speak across the Arab crescent. A proportion of the population is currently engaged in slaughtering one another and yet you attack the “state of Israel”, even on a politically neutral subject promoting agriculture and technology. Your IQ/EQ speaks for itself.

            Furthermore, I “engage” or communicate with you to “educate” you. I think it would show IQ/EQ intellect to say something positive about Israel and the Jews to show “balance of mind”.

            Think about your next comment and prove to the world you’re a balanced human being. So back to the article about agriculture in Israel, what are your thoughts on agriculture and innovation? Given that the world has to produce more food in the next 30 years than the last 10,000 combined, intensively, sustainably, collaboratively don’t you think you should use your gift of IQ/EQ to focus on solving this problem rather than coming out with low IQ/EQ comments such as: “The world can do without stories that promote terrorist states.”

            Warm regards to you and may I suggest you go study agriculture or farming for the future. We need as many young people out there connecting back with the land.

    • Plum Dumpling

      If you live in the US, a strong case can be made that you live in a terrorist state. We are discussing agriculture here.

      • Dan H

        @ Plum, sadly there are those so consumed with hate and vengeance they’ll ignore any positive contributions period because that doesn’t fit their agenda. They only make themselves look silly.

        • Plum Dumpling

          Thank you. I agree. I feel free to tell those folks “Sit down and shut up.” Good article.

  • xigan

    Didn’t we read stories about Israel’s brain drain recently? And now we hear that Israel is still the hotbed for high tech?

    • Dan H

      This has always been the case. Smart people leave to earn more money overseas, they also stay and build companies. Our hi-tech industry is worth close to $1 trillion. Life is never black and white as they say.

  • Plum Dumpling

    These are exciting new developments.

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