Hebrew University sets up agriculture innovation fund


Yissum's Aggrinovation is raising $6 million to advance agritech technologies and agricultural startups.

Yissum Research Development Company, the technology-transfer company of the Hebrew University, has set up Agrinnovation, an investment fund focused on agricultural inventions. The announcement was made at the inauguration ceremony of The Hebrew University's Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment.

Agrinnovation has already closed a $4 million first round of financing led by the Victor Smorgon Group from Australia. Other investors include Yissum and the Provident Fund of the Employees of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. In the coming days, a group of Chinese-Israeli investors will also join the fund, which is expected to raise up to $6 million. The funds raised will be used to advance agritech technologies and the establishment of new agricultural startups.

Agrinnovation, managed by Dr. Ido Schechter, will include promising applied technologies originating from The Hebrew Universitys Faculty of Agriculture which includes over 100 researchers working on novel inventions in diverse fields such as agriculture, food, nutrition, veterinary medicine and clean-tech. Each year, the fund will invest in 5 different outstanding early-stage projects, at times with a strategic partner, with the objective of bringing them to a successful proof-of-concept. The projects will firm the bases for the foundation of startups for development and commercialization of cutting-edge products.

Yissum CEO and Agrinovation chairman Yaacov Michlin said, "Following the success of Integra Holdings, Yissums biotech holdings company, we decided to adopt a similar model in the field of agritech. The Hebrew Universitys Faculty of Agriculture is the source of an impressive track record of commercial success, and is responsible for Israels leadership in the field. Agrinnovation is an efficient investment vehicle in the next generation of groundbreaking innovation, which will ultimately give rise to innovative ag-tech products.

One of the first projects that will be funded by Agrinnovation is an innovative protective coating for extending the shelf-life of fruits and vegetables, developed by Prof. Amos Nussinovitch, from the Institute of Biochemistry, Food Science and Nutrition, and Prof. Haim David Rabinowitch and Dr. Yonatan Elkind, both from the Institute of Plant Sciences and Genetics in Agriculture. The novel edible biodegradable film is intended for post-harvest shelf extension of fresh produce such as bell peppers, eggplants, tomatoes, apples, nectarines, plums, citruses, cherries as well as stored garlic and onion bulbs. In addition to reducing spoilage during storage, the novel coating also improves the products glossiness, its mechanical handling properties, and retention of volatile flavor compounds.

Another breakthrough technology that will be funded by the fund is for the controlled release of drugs for farm animals. The innovative technology was developed by Prof.s Michael Friedman and Amnon Hoffman from the School of Pharmacy - Institute for Drug Research and Prof. Eran Lavy from the School of Veterinary Medicine. This technology replaces the need for recurrent injections of drugs such as antibiotics and pain killers with a one-time injection of the active substance for the duration of the treatment. The prevention of recurring injections eliminates unnecessary pain and discomfort for the animal, while saving time and money for the veterinary surgeon and the farmer.

An additional technology that was approved by the funds investment committee is a method for the protection of plants that was invented by Prof. Hanokh Czosnek from the Institute of Plant Sciences and Genetics in Agriculture. This invention eliminates agricultural pests by electronic means, instead of chemicals. The technology helps farmers reduce to a minimum the use of pesticides in order to protect crops and livestock.

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on October 27, 2015

Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2015

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