Microsoft partners with Start-Up Nation Central to tap Israeli agrifood tech

US tech giant to help bring local agritech to the next level; Israeli startups work with Microsoft teams and showcase their technologies to the global marketplace

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

Anat Halgoa Solomon, co-founder and CEO of Saturas showcases the Israeli startup's smart sensor-based precision irrigation system at Microsoft's booth at the World Agri-Tech Innovation Summit in San Francisco in March, 2023. (Courtesy)
Anat Halgoa Solomon, co-founder and CEO of Saturas showcases the Israeli startup's smart sensor-based precision irrigation system at Microsoft's booth at the World Agri-Tech Innovation Summit in San Francisco in March, 2023. (Courtesy)

US tech giant Microsoft has partnered with Start-Up Nation Central to help Israeli agrifood tech startups augment their AI-powered models for sustainable farming solutions and get exposure to global markets.

Microsoft and Start-Up Nation Central are working together to identify global agrifood tech challenges and match them with relevant Israeli technologies that harness agricultural data. Tel Aviv-based Start-Up Nation Central is a non-profit organization that connects international businesses and government leaders with Israeli technology and facilitates access to the country’s startup ecosystem.

“The Israeli AgriFood Tech industry is well advanced in data, software, and connectivity, and offers incredible potential for Microsoft in the growing field of data-driven agriculture,” said Start-Up Nation Central CEO Avi Hasson. “Israel boasts over 250 leading cloud agriculture startups that offer fertile ground for innovation in this rapidly developing sector.”

Part of the collaboration, led by Microsoft AgriFood chief technology officer Ranveer Chandra, is to examine how the selected Israeli startups’ AI, data, cloud, and machine learning technologies can be integrated into tech giant’s cloud-based agriculture-focused set of software tools, including Open AI integration with GPT-3 and ChatGPT for agriculture use cases.

In addition, Israeli agrifood tech entrepreneurs get exposure to Microsoft’s global network of connections, including opportunities to showcase their technologies in the international marketplace that could lead to collaborations with strategic partners and access to new markets.

In recent years, global tech companies, including Microsoft, have focused on the development of data-driven cloud computing technologies to support farmers and help tackle the world’s urgent food and climate change crisis. Global food production will need to be doubled by 2050 to feed a growing world population.

From right to left: Projini CEO Dotan Peleg SNC collaboration manager Emma Vardimon, and Microsoft agrifood CTO Raneer Chandra at the World Agri-Tech Innovation Summit in San Francisco, March 2023. (Courtesy)

Microsoft has launched programs for agritech startups in India and Africa to provide them with the tech giant’s cloud computing platform and AI tools in order to help farmers adopt sustainable agriculture practices.

In March, Israeli agritech startups Projini and Saturas won Microsoft and SNC’s first challenge for water management and sustainable agriculture solutions. The two, chosen out of 40 Israeli startups, were hosted at Microsoft’s booth at the World Agri-Tech Innovation Summit in San Francisco in March to showcase their technologies. In addition, the two startups are collaborating with Microsoft’s global technology and investment teams.

Founded in 2019, Projini uses proprietary AI-driven discovery platform to develop novel, more resistant pesticides for the crop protection industry.

“During the conference we revealed our technology to dozens of leading stakeholders in the field,” said Projini CEO Dotan Peleg. “AI is reshaping many industries and using AI to innovate the crop protection industry for sustainability, pesticide safety and pesticide-resistant control opens new horizons for all.”

“We are privileged to scale our proprietary AI capabilities even further through collaborations with Microsoft’s promising new AI platforms,” said Peleg.

Saturas is a developer of a smart sensor-based precision irrigation system, which it says can tell farmers when trees are thirsty, so they know when to water them and how much water they need. As part of the collaboration, Saturas’ smart sensor, which is embedded in tree trunks to improve crop yield and control water use, has been placed at 15 Microsoft locations.

Saturas’ stem-water potential (SWP) sensor embedded into the trunks of vines in California for intelligence monitoring and data analysis. (Courtesy)

“Knowing that this is a difficult time in the market today for investments, both globally and especially in Israel, this vote of confidence and opportunity we received definitely improves our position and chances to succeed,” said Saturas co-founder and CEO Anat Halgoa Solomon.

During the course of 2023, Microsoft and Start-Up Nation Central are planning to launch another agritech challenge for Israeli startups developing technologies for sustainable agriculture in areas such as water modeling and protein research.

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