Israel Invests in the Galilee as the Future Hub for Food
Food technology startups are being encouraged to cast their eyes northward, with the government offering subsidies, free land and tax breaks to those that set up in the north of the country, and a new accelerator in Kiryat Shmona promising to help entrepreneurs by providing mentorships. The initiatives are part of a bid to transform the north into a hub for agriculture and food technology companies.
Over 60 food companies and dozens of startups participatedin an inaugural event for a foodtech innovation community in Kiryat Shmona, where Erel Margalit, founder and chairman of the venture capital firm JVP, announced the accelerator. At the event, Economy Minister Eli Cohen said the state would allocate NIS 110 million ($30 million) in the coming year for foodtech ventures in the Upper Galilee and in Kiryat Shmona, Israel’s northernmost city.
In addition, a foodtech high-tech park, a micro-industry hub and a foodtech innovation institute will be set up in the city, providing companies with the infrastructure and services “to develop the food of the future,” JVP said in a statement. The goal is to develop R&D centers and set up advanced food and agricultural industries, based on a government resolution that allocates millions of shekels to the effort.
Foodtech is an innovative sector that includes everything from smart agriculture to new ways to deliver, distribute and pay for food, as well as healthier food options and alternative proteins for consumers. The total market of agrifood reaches $11 trillion annually and essentially connects biotechnology, health, big data and innovation to the food industry. In Israel alone, there are over 300 foodtech startups, 253 established companies and 14 academic institutions that work in the field of food and agriculture innovation, according to data provided by JVP.
Israel, known as Startup Nation, sees most of its tech bustle in Tel Aviv, the nation’s business capital, and in other cities in central Israel like Herzliya and the up-and-coming Jerusalem and Ra’anana. The idea of the initiative is to spread some of benefits of the industry to the geographical periphery of the country, which suffers from higher unemployment and poverty. Beersheba, a southern city in Israel, is undergoing a transformation into a hub for cybersecurity startups and multinationals.
Overall, he said, more than NIS 400 million has been allocated by the government for foodtech incentives for companies moving to the Galilee, he said, adding that he’d like to see the Galilee attracting multinationals just as the southern city of Beersheba has become a hub for cybersecurity startups and multinational corporations.
The accelerator set up by JVP in Kiryat Shmona will collaborate with the Economy Ministry and an NGO set up by graduates of the elite 8200 IDF technology unit. The six business ventures selected for the accelerator program will receive business, legal, marketing and fundraising mentorship. Among the attendees at the event, which was backed by Margalit, the Economy Ministry and the region’s mayors and aimed to showcase the benefits of the Galilee, were food giants Tnuva, Osem, Uniliver and Nestle.
JVP’s Margalit said the idea was to connect all different players in the field from academia to entrepreneurs to multinational corporations in order to transform “Israel and the region into an agrifood tech epicenter.”