SodaStream’s Birnbaum invests in Israel-based cannabis tech firm Seedo

This is Birnbaum’s second investment this month in a cannabis venture; Seedo’s app enable growth of weed in fridge-like home lab

Shoshanna Solomon is The Times of Israel's Startups and Business reporter

SodaStream CEO Daniel Birnbaum at the SodaStream factory in Israel’s Negev Desert next to the city of Rahat on August 20, 2018. (Eliran Avital)
SodaStream CEO Daniel Birnbaum at the SodaStream factory in Israel’s Negev Desert next to the city of Rahat on August 20, 2018. (Eliran Avital)

Daniel Birnbaum, the CEO of fizzy water maker SodaStream, has invested NIS 2 million ($553,000) in the Israeli cannabis firm Seedo Corp., which has developed an app to help users grow plants at home.

In December, PepsiCo completed the acquisition of SodaStream, for $3.2 billion.

Seedo, whose shares have been traded over the counter in the US since the end of 2018, has created a fridge-like home lab equipped with sensors, a camera and other smart technologies, along with the app, to keep tabs on the plants’ progress, from seeds to drying stage.

This isn’t Birnbaum’s first foray into the cannabis field: earlier this month Cannabit Pharmaceuticals, a grower of the plant, said Birnbaum was part of a group of strategic investors in the firm company.

An illustration of Seedo’s technology for the automated growing of cannabis. (Seedo)

Seedo’s fully automated system is managed and controlled by an artificial intelligence algorithm and monitored by a smartphone app, using technology that Seedo has already implemented for other plants, the company has said.

Seedo has been selling its systems in Canada and California, and says its technologies enable the growth of lower-cost, uniform-quality, pesticide-free plants.

Zohar Levy, the CEO of Seedo, said that Birnbaum’s joining the company will give it the impetus to reach new markets, as interest in cannabis and its potential medicinal qualities is growing globally.

In August, Cannabics Pharmaceuticals, a cannabis company based in the US, said it would buy up to 20 percent of Seedo’s shares and get royalties from the firm. The firms said they intend to start with the development of a home device and then develop a new product together, using the same technology, for the growth of larger quantities of medical cannabis at an industrial scale.

Israel is considered a global leader in medical cannabis research, and its cannabis firms are snagging some big names. In September, former prime minister Ehud Barak said he will become chairman of InterCure, one of Israel’s biggest medical cannabis firms and a publicly traded company in Tel Aviv, to lead its global growth strategy.

Israel has taken steps in recent years to make medical cannabis available and is poised to become a major exporter of the crop. Recreational use of the drug remains illegal, though politicians recently said they would consider relaxing enforcement.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday said he would examine the possibility of legalizing cannabis, in an apparent reaction to the surge in polls of rival right-wing candidate Moshe Feiglin, who has made the issue one of his flagship policies.

Seedo holds a medical cannabis R&D license from the Israeli Health Ministry. Cannabics is a US-based public company that does its research and development in Israel, where it is licensed to perform scientific and clinical research on cannabinoid formulations.

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