AgriVest 2019 - Initiative and innovation meet the business sector toward #zerohunger2030
|"Our challenge is to increase food production beyond what has been in the past ten years"|
|Nurit Levy, Editor IsraelAgri.com|
|October 21, 2019|
It is a bit difficult to convey in writing the sizzling atmosphere that prevailed at the AgriVest 2019 conference that took place in Tel Aviv in late September, just at the time of the Jewish New Year 5770. A more suitable time − the Jewish New Year − would be hard to imagine for such an event, which is essentially about new beginnings.
AgriVest’s aim is to foster connections between the myriad of Israeli agricultural startups in Israel and investors from all over the world, and whose common aspirations are increase the global quantity of food by implementing new and innovative technologies.
Now in its sixth year, this year’s AgriVest was organized jointly by GrowingIL( Joint Venture of Israel innovation institute, Start-up nation central, ministry of economy and Digital Israel), The Trendlines Group, and GreenSoil Investments, who managed to produce a resoundingly successful conference.
Over 800 participants − investors, entrepreneurs, and academics − from over 30 countries attended. As the owner of the Israelagri portal, I was invited to participate and I hope this article will convey the exciting atmosphere that prevailed and offer a sampling of the ideas expressed in its opening session.
Nitza Kardish, PhD, VP of The Trendlines Group, welcomed the participants. As part of her opening remarks, she asserted: “What will help us sustain a habitable world is addressing our most pressing − and the most basic − problems in agriculture: water, soil, air.”
Next, Prof. Eugene Kandel, CEO of Start-Up Nation Central, pointed out why Israel in particular provides an ideal venue for investment opportunities: its many diverse activities, its rapid response to change and its superior technological ability. Not to mention that Israeli industry keeps its finger on the goings-on in the global marketplace.
According to Eugene, the conference’s initiators and supporting entities all aim to build the bridges required to link startup companies – those that have a vast amount of accumulated knowledge in the field of agriculture and/or have developed innovative technologies − with the entrepreneurs who will be able to invest in these new technologies to realize them and present them to the world.
Robert (Bob) Reiter, PhD, Executive Vice President and Head of Research & Development, Bayer, Crop Science Division, gave the keynote address. Reiter emphasized today’s urgency to find appropriate solutions to stave off world hunger.
According to Robert, our challenge − and by “our” he was addressing all the players in the industry − is to increase food production beyond what has been in the past ten years. He expressed his confidence in the industry's abilities to meet such a target. Taking into account that it is impossible to “produce” more land, he said that the goal must be to produce more food per unit area, a task that requires changing our approach about how we think about both consumers and farmers, and better understanding how technology’s benefits can be used to maximize food production.
Another facet that Reiter emphasized is the need for a modicum of sensitivity, since we are dealing with food, something that has unique emotional and cultural significance. Our mission, therefore, is to help farmers implement technology and efficiently use the abundance of available information to suit their specific needs. The essence behind his words rallied all the event’s participants by giving them the feeling that they were united in embarking on a mission toward a common and very important goal.
During the networking breaks, participants had a chance to visit the start-up exhibition in the entrance hall and, to discover the many innovations and opportunities that abounded, and to forge those all-important ties. Among the technologies presented by these companies were a robot for harvesting tomatoes, sensors to measure plant and soil moisture, and a robotic greenhouse that can be operated without human touch (The list of companies participated in the start-up exhibition).
What was common to all was technology aimed at streamlining the farmers' efforts, increasing crop and food yields, and increasing profitability.
As usual, the highlight of the conference was the competition for “Best Israeli Agtech Company.” Twelve startups took part. A representative for each startup came up on stage and had five minutes to present their company’s basic premise and underline the benefits it offered to improve and streamline some aspect of food production. A panel of judges onstage asked the company representatives pointed questions to clarify the essence of the new technology and what it offered. Following all the presentations, the audience and judges scored them to decide on the winner.
The declared winner of this year’s competition was the eggXYt Company. eggXYt has developed a revolutionary technology that can detect the sex of a chicken embryo immediately after the egg is laid. This will transform hatcheries and provide a solution to both the high ethical and financial costs in the laying hen industry.
The 2019 AgriVest conference was certainly exciting, abounding with energy, and a resounding success. Like, every AgriVest conference, it successfully contributed to the overall aim of agricultural companies to adopt more and more advanced technology to cope with today’s pressing need to produce more food using more limited resources.