Abu Dhabi-based accelerator to promote female-led Israeli, MENA agritech startups

Dana Global partners with Abu-Dhabi-based agritech investor Silal to advance solutions for tackling food insecurity in the UAE, and across the Middle East and Africa region

Sharon Wrobel is a tech reporter for The Times of Israel.

Dana Global signs partnership agreement with Abu Dhabi-based agritech investor Silal. (Courtesy)
Dana Global signs partnership agreement with Abu Dhabi-based agritech investor Silal. (Courtesy)

An Abu Dhabi-based desert tech venture builder is inviting female-led agritech startups from Israel, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) to take part in a pilot program to bring innovative agritech solutions to the United Arab Emirates to help address the major challenge of food insecurity.

“We share the same climate issues and in Israel, we have many years of experience in engaging in technology with the desert,” Shirley Shahar, Dana Global’s Tel Aviv-based co-founder told The Times of Israel. “The idea is to bring these technologies to Abu Dhabi and the UAE as they are looking for technologies to support their agrifood sector.”

“They are in the desert so this is something that is mutual for us both,” Shahar added.

In recent years, Israel has developed into a hotbed for desert technologies in the areas of agriculture, energy, water and infrastructure. There are more than 300 Israeli start-up companies developing technologies either specifically geared to, or potentially adaptable for, desert environments, according to a report of DeserTech and Start-Up Nation Central.

Founded in 2020, Dana acts as a regional venture builder and investment platform for early-stage women-led start-ups in desert tech focused on agritech, foodtech, water solutions and renewable energy to help farmers faced with challenges of food security and waste management. It supports startups through regional collaboration, mentorship and funding.

On Monday, Dana announced a new partnership agreement with Abu-Dhabi-based agritech investor Silal to attract agriculture technology and innovation to Abu Dhabi’s ecosystem and address challenges such as resource scarcity, local production and food security.

Illustrative: An undated image of a farmer in the western Negev inspecting a crop of cherry tomatoes. (Gili Yaari/Flash90)

“The Middle East has a clear and present risk of major food insecurity, and doing nothing is not an option,” stated Dana co-founder Katie Wachsberger. “Via this partnership, we can better support the incredible entrepreneurs we work with — most of whom are women from the region.”

“Complementing the beta sites we are already operating, we plan to launch new pilots and collect vital data to foster ecosystem growth and encourage entrepreneurs to make their dreams a reality,” she added.

As part of the joint venture between Dana and Silal, 10 startups a year from Israel and across the MENA region will be chosen to take part in a program for agricultural projects in the areas of salinity, irrigation, crop optimization, post-harvest and supply chain, pest management, fertilization and systems efficiency.

“We are doing the deal sourcing from Israel to make sure that the technologies that are chosen provide solutions for the most pressing needs and we will also do a due diligence process on the startups,” said Shahar, who is Dana’s Chief Strategy Officer. “The collaboration with Silal is giving the right platform to startups engaged in desert technologies to scale up.”

The partnership comes as International Monetary Fund’s Managing Director, Kristalina Georgieva, recently announced that over 141 million people in Arab countries are at risk of food insecurity, Dana said in a statement.

The Dana program works with pre-seed start-ups from the MENA region, coordinating proof-of-concept and feasibility testing at beta sites. The regional desert tech accelerator is currently working with six companies from the UAE, Israel, Saudi Arabia and the Palestinian Territories, focused on desert climate sustainability.

Pakistani-American leaders examine desert agrotech at the Shaar HaNegev Regional Council, September 19, 2022 (Sharaka)

Among the Israeli startups in Dana’s cohort is Dayts, a foodtech startup that has developed a solution to turn date waste into functional, clean labeled ingredients for the food and beverage industry; and Viridix, a developer of an AI-powered precision irrigation system.

“The most promising candidates within Dana’s portfolio of companies will graduate to later stage pilots within Silal’s program offering,” Dana said.

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