The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and the Israel Innovation Authority are renewing the support track for agritech companies with a NIS 20 million budget for another year. The track enables agricultural startups to submit application for three different types of grant: R&D grants; grants for cooperation between regional R&D centers of the Ministry of Agriculture or the Ministry of Science, Technology, and Space; and grants for overseas pilots.
The Innovation Authority and the Ministry of Agriculture are each paying for part of the budget. Up to 60% financing will be provided to companies winning grants. Negotiations between the two ministries on the 2019 budget for the program are on the verge of completion. Innovation Authority sources said that the Ministry of Agriculture and the Innovation Authority would each allocate NIS 10 million for the program.
The budget for another year is being allocated shortly after the grants for last year were provided, and before their results can be assessed. The Innovation Authority committee for the agricultural track convened in December 2018 and discussed 55 applications for the various tracks. 18 of the requests were approved: 12 R&D grants, four grants for pilots, and two for cooperation between companies and regional R&D centers.
As part of the plan, the Ministry of Agriculture has created a new post, senior deputy director for agricultural innovation, currently filled by Dr. Michal Levy. The new position is an example of the ministry's policy of investing in innovation.
"The Ministry of Agriculture's core work involves agriculture, water quotas, foreign workers, open spaces, and so forth. My activity, which is being added to this, consists of taking the wonderful ecosystem of agricultural innovation in Israel and leveraging it to maintain Israel's status as a global technology power on the one hand, and to apply agricultural innovation in local agriculture on the other," Levy told "Globes."
Companies that received support from the program include CropX Technologies, which received a pilot grant for the precise irrigation platform it has developed. The company has developed screw-like sensors for measuring water and nitrates in soil in order to produce irrigation prescriptions for farmers. The platform takes into account the type of land, its topography, weather, the type of crop, and the state of the water in the plant. Another company is EggXYT, which develops egg-laying chickens that make it possible to identify the male chicks in advance. Raising egg-laying chickens currently requires mass slaughtering of male chicks. The company develops chickens that can be scanned non-invasively before the egg is inserted into the hatchery, thereby enabling chicken growers to detect the chick's gender at an early stage, so that it can be either put into the hatchery or slaughtered.
In addition to the government support tracks, there are also private initiatives in the sector, such as the innovation incubator founded a year ago by the Yakhin Group in cooperation with the TechForGood company. This incubator is now starting another cycle. This cycle will be launched at an event today, with the Ministry of Agriculture and the Innovation Authority in attendance.
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on February 5, 2019
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