(photo credit: Wikicommons)
Following in the footsteps of the country’s hi-tech sector, Israel’s burgeoning
agricultural technology industry has the potential to become a global force to
be reckoned with, agreed experts at a conference on Tuesday.
can and should be Israel’s next technological sector,” said Steve Rhodes,
chairman and CEO of The Trendlines Group, a venture capital firm that invests in
agricultural technologies and medical devices. “In order to achieve that dream,
it’s necessary to give the sector much broader exposure.”
addressing corporate and academic participants at the second annual Agrivest
Conference, sponsored by the Mofet-Trendlines Venture Accelerator and held at
the Eretz Israel Museum in Tel Aviv. While a wide range of Israeli start-ups and
larger companies have long been innovating in agricultural technology fields,
ensuring that the technologies have multi-disciplinary applicability and that
they reach a global audience will now be crucial, experts at the conference
“The dramatic increase in the global population, climate changes
and water scarcity all enhance the importance of agriculture in the world,” said
Agriculture Minister Yair Shamir. “Israeli capabilities are known worldwide but
we must leverage our abilities to keep Israel a global player.”
that the government has recognized the importance of promoting further Israeli
agritech development, Shamir explained how his budget alone, for agricultural
research and development, received an increase in the 2013 national budgetary
decisions. This budget, he said, now receives NIS 100 million
As Israeli innovators continue to develop agricultural
technologies, experts at the conference agreed that some of the most valuable
types of tools will be those that allow for improved data and resource
management. Tools that “put all the pieces together and enable us to offer a
grower to manage risk better” are the most crucial, said Peleg Chevion, head of
abiotic stress management and crop enhancement at Syngenta.
“Every time a
farmer puts a seed in the ground he is taking a tremendous risk,” agreed
Virginia Ursin, a science fellow and technology prospecting leader at Monsanto
Research. Developing technologies that minimize this risk as much as possible is
critical to the future of agriculture, she explained.
Avi Perl, chief
scientist at the Agriculture Ministry, explained that his ministry is aiming to
do just that.
“Our dream technology, the technology that we are currently
supporting the research of, together with leading scientists and companies, is
what we call the ‘Facebook of agriculture,’” said Perl.
The venture will
be a sort of “agri-pedia” or “agri-cloud” that comes together with a
multi-criteria decision support system, evaluating factors such as genetics,
physiology, environment and climate, Perl explained. It is the hope of
researchers that this future tool, to be available on phones and other mobile
devices, will enable farmers to make more informed choices, he said.
cannot control the weather,” said Perl, “but we can minimize the dependence of
agriculture on what we call God.”
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