When Tel Aviv met Kiryat Shmona

Tel Aviv mayor Ron Huldai visited the up-and-coming tech scene in the northern town of Kiryat Shmona on Sunday and vowed to build collaborations between the two cities.

 Margalit Foodtech Center (photo credit:  Olivier Rosenthal)
Margalit Foodtech Center
(photo credit: Olivier Rosenthal)

Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai visited on Sunday the "Margalit Startup City Galilee – the International Foodtech Center" in Kiryat Shmona in order to familiarize himself with an up-and-coming tech scene in the North and seek possible collaborations between Israel's hi-tech capital and the northern town.

During his visit to the center, which was founded by entrepreneur and investor Erel Margalit - founder and chair of the JVP fund and former Labor party candidate - Huldai met with startup leaders, young social and business entrepreneurs, and heard about their work, the challenges they’re dealing with, and what drew them to the Galilee. Between the meetings, he also tried out the latest technological inventions.

One startup, Blue Huna, aims to transform agricultural waste into environmentally-friendly single-use utensils, and presented to Huldai its flagship product: straws that are made from oat stems. The startup's founders, Klil and Einon Shir encouraged Huldai to introduce their product in Tel Aviv, as it offers a real environmentally-friendly solution for perishable utensils. Huldai was excited about the product and said that starting from the summer of 2022, the use of plastic will be forbidden on Tel Aviv’s beaches.

Another company at the Center, Hargol FoodTech, is the leading company for the production of alternative protein from grasshoppers and its products are currently produced in the US and China. Huldai tasted a chocolate protein shake based on grasshopper protein.

Huldai also met a group of fifth-grade students from Kiryat Shmona's Maganim School and viewed a number of their inventions, such as an allergen watch that identifies allergenic ingredients and a chocolate mousse from chickpea water. 

 Erel Margalit addresses visitors at the launch of the  International Foodtech Center at the new Margalit Startup City Galil in Kiryat Shmona.  (credit: Ofer Freiman) Erel Margalit addresses visitors at the launch of the International Foodtech Center at the new Margalit Startup City Galil in Kiryat Shmona. (credit: Ofer Freiman)

“This center excites and impresses in an amazing way. As the son of pioneers, this is the modern pioneering, and it’s simply exceptionally impressive,” Huldai said. 

"The whole story of the Galilee boils down to employment," he added."We need to create interest and bring people to this ecosystem, to provide backing to the startup leaders and to create industry. Employment, and the creation of more employment, brings more startups," he said.

"Tel Aviv provides inspiration to many cities in Israel and the world, a city that brings its creativity to its streets. And that’s exactly what’s lacking in many places in Israel," Margalit said.

Kiryat Shmona - a tech hub of the future

Margalit is determined to turn Kiryat Shmona into a tech hub.

"When we came to the Galilee five years ago, we asked ourselves and the people here what could lead the State of Israel within five to seven years, and could create 30,000 highly-paid jobs. In the last few years, we’ve created here 35 companies that started from scratch without a shekel from the state - during a period of political shenanigans and in the absence of a stable government – and we worked together with all our strategic partners in order to create the highest level of startups," He added.

"This is Israel’s next opportunity," he concluded. "Here we are nurturing the next generation of entrepreneurs who will bring the next big thing to the world. It will be wonderful to do this with Tel Aviv.”

Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai (credit: TOMER NEUBERG/FLASH90)Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai (credit: TOMER NEUBERG/FLASH90)

The Margalit Startup City Galil with Jewish National Fund-USA opened in September, with a stated aim to "address the burning problems of the world, including global warming, hunger, drought, and a shortage of healthy food."

It also collaborates with local schools in a unique program in collaboration with the Education Ministry for start-ups, entrepreneurship, innovation and foodtech.

The Kiryat Shmona hub is Margalit’s fourth innovation center (Start-Up City), joining cyber centers in New York, Beersheba, Jerusalem. Margalit also has planned centers opening up in Paris and Dubai. JVP is the first venture capital fund to invest so heavily in the Galilee region, according to the fund.

The Center operates in strategic cooperation with a host of ecosystem players, public bodies and corporations, including the Kiryat Shmona Municipality, Upper Galilee Regional Council, and the Galilee Development Company; and local and international business and technological bodies that are opening a branch the Galilee for the first time, including JVP, Cisco, Deloitte, Luzzatto Group, Bank Hapoalim, and Fischer & Fischer Law Firm.

Partners also include local academic bodies Migal Research Institute and Tel Hai Academic College; local and international philanthropic foundations such as Jewish National Fund - USA, Rothschild Foundation, Foundation Ica and Keren Hayesod France; as well as technology companies Solato, WITI, Grasshopper, Digital Valley, and the program at Digital Valley – Galil Studio.