US food giant Mars Inc. has teamed up with Jerusalem Venture Partners to collaborate on the research and development of innovative technologies to tackle global food, agriculture and nutrition challenges, the companies announced on Wednesday.
The R&D agreement will see the Virginia-headquartered manufacturer support Israeli start-ups and the formation of companies, and work with leading Israeli academic institutions, including Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the Weizmann Institute and the Technion, to advance food-tech innovation.
Mars’s new entrepreneurial division, Mars Edge, and the Mars Advanced Research Institute will work with Israeli partners to explore the convergence of food, health and technology, and seek to provide scalable solutions to challenges of feeding the world in a sustainable, eco-friendly manner.
“Mars is passionate about leveraging leading science and technology to innovate,” said Jean-Christophe Flatin, president of Innovation, Science, Technology & Mars Edge at Mars.
“Our ambition is to provide people around the world with consumer centric products, services and experiences... We are clear that we need forward-thinking partnerships and collaborations to do this.”
The partnership with Mars is part of JVP’s growing project to transform the Upper Galilee into a leading center of food-tech. In July 2018, the venture capital firm announced the establishment of a food-tech accelerator and hi-tech park in Kiryat Shmona, backed by NIS 110 million in state funding.
“Israel has been a case study for how innovation can change a country and transform the world,” said JVP founder and executive chairman Erel Margalit.
“After building global companies and solutions in cybersecurity, AI and big data, Israel has set its sights on food as the next frontier. As food and nutrition needs change around the world, we need to create more nutritious, accessible and sustainable food solutions.
“And by partnering with Mars, one of the world’s most iconic brands at the forefront of innovation, we are confident in Israel’s ability to be the food tech leader of the future.”
Agriculture and food-tech start-ups raised $16.9 billion in funding in 2018, representing a 43% increase over the previous year, according to venture capital platform AgFunder.
Israel is currently home to more than 230 active agrifood technology start-ups, JVP said.
“We are eager to partner with JVP and tap into the innovative ecosystem of the Israeli food, health and technology community,” said George Graham, vice president of the Mars Advanced Research Institute.
“This exciting collaboration will help us access and be part of solutions specific to global challenges in the food system related to agri-tech, nutrition and food security.”
Founded in 1993 by Margalit, JVP has raised $1.4b. across nine funds and invests in early to growth-stage companies in a range of industries. It has built more than 130 companies and facilitated 12 initial public offerings on the Nasdaq exchange.