Jan. 11, 2019
How Israel Makes the Desert Bloom (Economist-UK)
The Israeli firm Taranis uses high-resolution imagery from drones, planes and satellites to diagnose problems in fields of crops – among them infestations, diseases, dryness and nutrient deficiencies.
Faced with unfriendly neighbors and an arid climate, Israel has had to innovate to survive. Taranis is the poster child of its stunning rise in agritech.
Over 500 companies operate in the field, nearly twice as many as in the better-known cyber-security sector. A third of them did not exist five years ago.
Other countries have bet big on agritech, but Israel is ahead of all but America, say investors.
When Wang Qishan, China’s vice-president, visited Israel in October, he toured agritech exhibits.
“Agricultural parks” using Israeli technology have mushroomed across China. Indian and African officials have also made recent trips to Israel seeking inspiration.
54% of Israel’s agritech ventures are managed by someone who grew up in a kibbutz. Conditions forced them to be creative. The southern part of the country often receives less rainfall in a year than England gets in a day.
Netafim, the world’s leading maker of drip-irrigation systems, is worth nearly $1.9 billion.
Israel’s overall civilian R&D spending, measured as a share of GDP, is more than that of any European country.
The Technion-Israel Institute of Technology earns over half as much licensing patents as MIT in America, despite spending much less on research.