As the world’s population continues to grow, standard agricultural methods can’t keep up with the rising demand for food. Meanwhile, our planet’s precious natural resources are depleting, and a significant amount of food is wasted along the way.
Aiming to improve and innovate the agriculture industry and food supply, AgriFood-tech start-ups are helping farmers small and large alongside AgriFood businesses to feed global populations. These technologies include data-driven yield and harvest management, smart pest control, and alternative food sources (such as protein).
Examples of Israeli AgriFood-tech start-ups include Agrematch, whose computational model assesses 1 billion compounds to identify and test new herbicides and fungicides; CropX, which derives soil data from its wireless ground sensors, which can save water and energy and boost crop yield; alternative protein start-up Hargol FoodTech, which turns grasshoppers into protein to fight world hunger; and SavorEat and Redefine Meat, both developing 3D-printed meatless burgers.
Here are five fast facts about this growing sector:
This is actually the second wave of Israel’s AgriFood-tech boom
Israel has a rich history of agricultural innovation, borne of an arid environment and the existential need to achieve food and water security for its rapidly growing population. For example, the world’s first water-conserving drip irrigation technology was developed by Israel’s Netafim. Now, a new crop of AgriFood tech companies – grounded in big data analysis, sensors, biotech, and robotics – are gaining increasing traction and global visibility.
The number of AgriFood-tech start-ups has grown exponentially in recent years.
The rate of start-up creation has more than tripled in the last decade, with 124 Israeli start-ups founded in the last three and a half years alone – more than the total of the previous six years. According to a new report by Start-Up Nation Central, 350 companies currently operate in this field, a third of them started over the past five years.
Investors increasingly bet on Israeli AgriFood-tech
Over the past five years, the total annual investment in Israel’s AgriFood-tech more than doubled, reaching a whopping $100 million in the past year. In the first three quarters of 2019, venture capitalists poured $12 million or more into each of the following start-ups: DouxMatok, which reduces sugar and salt levels in food by enhancing their flavor impact on the tongue, raised $22 million; Aleph Farms, which bio-engineers whole-muscle meat, raised $12 million; and so did Fieldin, which provides sensors and data for orchards.
Giant food manufacturers want a piece of the pie
Foodtech has been the biggest attraction of multinational corporations in Israel. Some of the world’s largest food and beverage companies have established research and development centers or co-development relationships in Israel, including Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Mondelez, Heineken, AB InBev, Bright Food, and Mars.
AgriFood-tech movers and shakers: not your typical entrepreneurs
Israel’s current wave of AgriFood-tech innovation is being driven by entrepreneurs with an unusual combination of experience in farming, the military, and academia. Most start-ups have at least one founder from a kibbutz (a cooperative farming community unique to Israel).
To read the 2019 Start-Up Nation Central Report on AgriFood-tech, click here.