Israeli tech making a difference
According to the United Nations biodiversity, or biological diversity, is the variability among living organisms from all sources, including terrestrial, marine, and other aquatic ecosystems, and the ecological complexes of which they are part. To put it simply, as its name suggests, biodiversity refers to how diverse our planet is with all species from plants, to animals, and everything in between. Since 1955, alteration of biodiversity that was related to human activities was greater than at any time in human history, driven by habitat loss from agriculture and infrastructure, over-exploitation, pollution, invasive species, and climate change. On this International Day for Biological Diversity, let’s explore how Israel, and its tech, are making a difference in preserving biodiversity.
BeeHero is a data-driven tech company redefining pollination in commercial agriculture and, in less than three years, has become the world’s largest pollination provider. Using advanced data analytics, artificial intelligence, and low-cost IoT sensors, BeeHero brings transparency and efficiency to the complex logistics of commercial crop pollination. BeeHero’s Precision-Pollination-as-a-Service results in better crop yields and increased profits for commercial crop growers and agribusiness stakeholders. 75% of food crops depend on insect pollinators, the yields of which comprise around one-third of global food production. Pollinator insects face multiple threats such as habitat loss, climate changes, and agrochemical toxicity, leading to pollinator declines which could lead to a global decrease in crop production of ~ 10% if pollinator insects die out. Moreover, the worldwide increase in the proportion of land cultivated with pollinator‐dependent crops implies increased reliance on pollination services. Non-managed insects are vital to functioning ecosystems, yet abundance and diversity are declining globally, with climate change impacts considerable, even when compared to impacts from changes in land use. With the warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, 18% of insects are estimated to lose at least 50% of their ranges. BeeHero’s data-driven approach and insect detection capabilities contribute to conservation measures to combat biodiversity loss such as elucidating agrochemical impacts on bees, gathering data on wildflowers and species, promoting habitat management, and enabling effective urban greening and monitoring of many wild and managed insects.
Omer Davidi, CEO at BeeHero, explained that “As time passes, we learn more about our mistakes as humanity–trying to address specific needs without a good understanding of the damage we are causing. It is time to provide responsible and sustainable solutions to leave a better world for generations to come. The combination of excellent financial outcomes while doing good is the perfect combination and a great reason to wake up every morning extremely motivated to continue our critical mission.”
BeeHero was founded at the end of 2017 by Itai Kanot (COO), a second-generation commercial beekeeper, Yuval Regev (CTO), a deep tech expert who spent many years in an elite unite in the Israeli Intelligence force, and Omer Davidi (CEO), a serial entrepreneur coming from the deep technological background. BeeHero has raised $23 million from ADM Capital, Rabo Food and Agri Innovation Fund, iAngels, Firstime, J-Ventures, UpWest, Entrée Capital, Good Company, STB Holdings, the Arison Group, Gaingels, as well as $4 million in grants from the European Commission, the BIRD Foundation, and the Israel Innovation Authority. The company is expanding rapidly, already working with some of the largest crop growers in the U.S. BeeHero’s team is currently 37 people strong, spread across California and Tel-Aviv.
One of the biggest threats to biodiversity is the use of crop protection chemicals. The magnitude of this threat and its devastating effects were first brought to public awareness in the late 1950s by pioneering environmentalist, Rachel Carson. In her book, Silent Spring, Carson documented the environmental harm caused by the indiscriminate use of pesticides. She accused the chemical industry of spreading disinformation, and public officials of accepting the industry’s marketing claims unquestioningly. Carson began to work on environmental conservation, especially environmental problems that she believed were caused by synthetic pesticides. The book was met with fierce opposition by chemical companies, but it swayed public opinion and led to a reversal in U.S. pesticide policy, a nationwide ban on DDT for agricultural uses, and an environmental movement that led to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Yet, still to this day, some 70 years later, as a society, we are still struggling to find the balance between protecting the environment and protecting our crops, which is what ProJini is trying to do. Their solution is to apply AI and deep-tech technologies proven in Human health to plant health to create precision plant health solutions. The concept of precision plant health to replace toxic pesticides is like that of precision medicine, where drugs designed to target only cancer cells, replace chemotherapy. ProJini used AI to predict and design novel solutions that work safely and selectively on plant pests without harming humans, animals, or the environment. Their solution will help balance the need to feed a growing population and protect the planet’s biodiversity. As Dotan Peleg, CEO of ProJini stated, “There is a huge need in the industry for novel compounds with higher safety profiles, which are effective also against resistant pests with a ‘predict and design’ concept driven by bio-rational and biosafety. By computationally screening millions of possible compounds, we rapidly design, validate and optimize highly specific ones for safe and effective solutions”
ProJini was founded in 2019 by Itai Bloc (CSO), Maayan Gal (Scientific Advisor), both AI-driven drug discovery experts and serial entrepreneurs, Dotan Peleg (CEO), and Nesly Dotan (CTO). To date, they have raised $4.5 million from Bayer-Trendlines Fund, Trendlines Group with IIA, Sirius Global, and Migal. They are currently raising Series A funds to bring to market the first AI-designed herbicide.
EcoPhage is an agribiotechnology company, providing sustainable and effective, phage-based crop protection solutions to manage bacterial plant diseases. The world’s increasing population brings major global efforts to improve crop global yield while healing our soil from a harmful past. 20-30% of yield loss is due to more than 200 known bacterial diseases, some of which have no current remedies, and others have suboptimal environmentally toxic solutions. EcoPhage is leveraging nature’s biodiversity by using the natural enemies of bacteria-bacteriophages (phages) – viruses that specifically attack and replicate in their target bacteria. After bacteria’s full elimination they are naturally biodegraded leaving no residues.
EcoPhage characterizes and selects specific phages of interest from their immense diversity in nature, selecting the best candidates. Based on their cutting-edge technology, they then select combinations of the best phages that will effectively eradicate the harmful bacteria, while preventing any future resistance. As Dr. Orly Savion, CEO of EcoPhage said, “In contrast to other chemical available solutions, phages specifically only attack the disease-causing bacteria and are safe to all other organisms, including beneficial bacteria, insects, animals, and humans. This will help keep nature’s biodiversity that is essential for the healing and restoration of soil and its fertility.”
EcoPhage was founded in 2019 as a Trendlines incubator company. The company’s proprietary technology platform is licensed from the Weizmann Institute of Science, developed by Professor Rotem Sorek, a recognized world leader known for his ground-breaking research on the interactions between bacteria and bacteriophages. The company is backed by The Trendlines Group, the Bayer Trendlines Ag Innovation Fund, and the Israel Innovation Authority (IIA).
Concrete is needed for many sea and ocean-related activities, like shoreline protection, waterfront infrastructure, and offshore applications. Traditional concrete is not only harmful to the environment when it is produced, but it also does not harbour any marine life when it is used for waterfront applications. Since biodiversity and a balanced ecosystem along the shoreline is crucial, as it provides for a wide range of ecosystem services such as water filtration, supporting fish stocks, carbon sequestration, and reducing the dominance of invasive species, an eco-friendlier solution is needed. ECOncrete, an Israeli startup, is a concrete technology provider that brings biodiversity, carbon storage, and superior structural performance to any marine infrastructure. ECOncrete’s proprietary technology affects the chemical composition and design of concrete infrastructure, harnessing it to support biological processes which contribute to both environmental uplift and structural durability. Solutions using ECOncrete’s technology are quickly encrusted in rich marine life, like oysters and corals. This living layer not only makes concrete more durable but also transforms ECOncrete’s industry-standard concrete into a self-mitigating, carbon-storing structure.
As Ido Sella, Ph.D., Co-Founder & Co-Innovator, CEO and Chief Scientist ECOncrete reiterated, “We need to balance sustainability and development; we need to make sure we have a strong waterfront that supports our infrastructure and human activity. With ECOncrete we can do it in a way that promotes biology, provides biodiversity, and supports the ecosystem in the ocean. A win-win solution. It is elementary for a healthy food chain, and a positive effect on all marine life in all depths of the seas.”
ECOncrete was founded in 2012 by two marine biologists: Ido Sella and Shimrit Perkol Finkel (1975-2021). It is an award-winning and fast-growing international company with 30+ employees and 40+ projects in over 11 countries and 8 seas.
Biodiversity is affected by plastic pollution, which has direct and deadly consequences on wildlife. Thousands of marine animals die each year after ingesting or getting entangled in plastic nets abandoned in the sea. Relicta’s solution is a water-soluble bioplastic material that is made from fish processing waste. From fish skin, it is possible to get a specific mixture that is a transparent and odourless plastic film suitable for packaging. Due to its composition, the plastic is compostable, biodegradable, and water-soluble. Water solubility is the most crucial feature of the product, which opens new ways of disposal for this material. The self-disposal process does not alter the standard water purification processes. As Davide Sanna, CEO of Relicta stated, “For every kg of Relicta bioplastic in the market, there will be one kg less plastic waste in the environment,”; that means less fish will die and in turn allow for a more biologically diverse ocean.
Relicta was founded in 2020 by Davide Sanna Ph.D. CEO, Chemist, and inventor of the material; Andrea Farina, CTO, with a master’s degree in Chemistry and Pharmaceutical Technologies; Mariangela Melino, CFO, with a master’s degree in Economics and Management; Matteo Sanna COO, with a master’s degree in Medicine and Surgery; and Giovanni Conti, CMO, with a master’s degree in Economics and Management. The startup raised a pre-seed investment of € 80 000 and reached TRL 4. Currently, they are raising funds to develop their industrial production. Relicta is another Italian startup that has partnered with Israel’s Arieli Capital, to be connected to Israeli high-tech companies, industrial leaders, international corporations, investors, and academic institutions to advance their product.
Formerly BeeSecure, BuzzUp is an Italian startup that has partnered with Israel’s Arieli Capital, to be connected to Israeli high-tech companies, industrial leaders, international corporations, investors, and academic institutions to advance their product. BuzzUp is creating devices that translate the buzz of bees. The company’s IoT sensors are placed inside beehives to help farmers and beekeepers see the health status and pollination performance. Bees pollinate around 80% of our food, and without proper pollination, plants have fewer yields, worse taste, and lose vitamins; without bees, much of the plant life we know today would cease to exist. These vital insects are facing a phenomenon where they are dying at alarming rates, with unknown origins. Most attribute the increase in bee deaths to external pressures such as disease, pesticides, and habitat loss. BuzzUp is helping take better care of these creatures with the help of technology and big data. Currently, they are working with multiple universities in the Mediterranean region on a project that will help mitigate the effects of climate change on bees and the biodiversity they produce. Eventually, BuzzUp plans to monitor wild bees in the future. As Roberto Pasi, CEO of BuzzUp emphasized, “Today, a hive of pollinators is like a black hole of information for everyone involved in the buzz chain”; their importance is critical to a biologically diverse ecosystem.
BuzzUp was founded in 2017 by Roberto Pasi (CEO), a beekeeper, and Gabriele Garavini (CTO), a software engineer. They decided to join forces to make both the lives of beekeepers easier as well as have a positive impact on the fate of bees. Currently, they are a team of 9 people. They raised a seed round of € 250,000 in 2018 and broke even in 2019 with more than 500 customers at a 92% retention rate. They are planning another fundraising round in the near future.