Israel’s Ag-Tech Sector Takes a Sustainable Leap Forward
One company talks lofty plans to revolutionize the poultry industry
Photo Credit: Daniel Tuttle | Unsplash
Israel already boasts over 350 agriculture and food technology companies. These businesses have attracted record-breaking amounts of venture capital. Even though we’re seeing the negative effects on investment caused by the coronavirus. Israel overall has done pretty well. According to a recent report by Start-Up Nation Central, investment in the sector increased to $100 million.
We all know Israel is tiny but what gives the country an outsized share of the global food tech market, one predicted to be worth $250 billion by 2022?
One element of this success is Judaism. Well, not really. It’s more like the ethical values that Jewish thought holds dear. Values such as environmental sustainability and treating animals humanely are guiding Israeli entrepreneurs toward new business models.
Take meat, for example. We’ve all heard the argument that meat production greatly contributes to greenhouse gasses and a warming globe. It’s not about meat per se but more about what goes into entire process. Acres of trees must be cut down to make way for pastures, which means less greenery to absorb the carbons in the air. Farmers must also raise crops to feed the cows. For that, they need transportation and the burning of more fossil fuels. Furthermore, cows themselves let off exorbitant amounts of methane.
Do you really want to know how? Ok, you asked for it. There is obviously what comes out of one end: manure and flatulence. But cow burps can let off much more, making our bovine friends big sources of environmental degradation.
This is why Israeli startups such as Beyond Meat, Future Meat Technologies, SuperMeat and Aleph Farms have been busy trying to produce alternative meat in labs. Although cultured beef – meat grown from cow cells – is not yet on the market, this innovation could bring massive improvements to the environment and animal welfare. In one stroke, it would do away with the whole process of industrial meat production.
Similar innovations are happening in the poultry industry. Do you know what happens to many male chicks the day they hatch?
Alon Blum, CEO of an Israeli company called LIVEgg, explains that male chicks of a certain variety – chickens more suited to laying eggs – are often killed right after they hatch. Because these males cannot lay eggs, the poultry industry has no use for them. This incredible waste is hard for many of us to stomach.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. Blum’s company has developed cutting-edge technologies that will allow hatcheries to determine the sex of eggs after just a few days of incubation. LIVEgg’s system uses non-invasive electro-optical technology to monitor physiological signals from inside the egg. It then uses machine learning to generate precise data on each egg.
“If an egg turns out to be male we take it out of the system before the chick or its nervous system develops in the embryo. This prevents any cruelty,” Blum says. “These eggs would not go to consumption, for they have already been in incubation eight days. Instead, they would likely go to the animal feeding industry.”
This exciting innovation is based on a technology platform LIVEgg created called POMP (poultry optimization through monitoring and prediction). “This is a holistic technology that can be used for several fields,” Blum says. Based on this platform, he explains, LIVEgg has developed several applications and is hard at work on new ones.
With this platform, the company could significantly disrupt the poultry industry. For one, hatcheries still rely on limited technology.“They cannot determine the sex of the embryo in each egg,” Blum says. “They also cannot produce accurate data about the development of the embryo.”
Until now, Blum adds, “we have been in the dark about what is happening inside the egg.
“Based on external market research we just conducted globally we understood that if 100% of the poultry industry around the world would adopt tomorrow our POMP technology, it would save the industry about 10.5 billion dollars annually.”
Building off the POMP platform, LIVEgg has already launched CrystalEgg, the world’s first embryo monitoring system. It can read the embryo’s physiological signals and generate real-time data about its development.
Real-time data is likely to become an important tool for hatcheries. Spectory, which designed and developed LIVEgg’s platform, focused on ways to make this data as user-friendly as possible.
“One of the main challenges while working on this project was to take complex data and organize it in a way so anyone can understand it,” said Liran Mahazri, Spectory’s UI/UX designer.
“The goal was to present the main page the user interacts with in an optimal way. On one hand, it must contain all the necessary information, but on the other, it shouldn’t be too busy. The user should find it easy and intuitive to find the information he or she is looking for.”
Armed with real-time data and cutting-edge technology, the poultry industry could boost productivity by as much as 4% and prevent a lot of unnecessary animal cruelty.
These are vital steps in creating a healthier planet and encouraging more humane ways of doing business. Israeli companies are spearheading these efforts in a sector ripe for digitized solutions.
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