Virginia Tech, Strauss seek Israeli firms for food R&D
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Virginia Tech, Strauss seek Israeli firms for food R&D

Agro companies invited to apply for program offering ‘plethora of resources’ to draw ventures to the Eastern Seaboard state

A falafel sandwich ready to be eaten, part of the pantheon of Israeli food. (Orel Cohen/Flash90)
A falafel sandwich ready to be eaten, part of the pantheon of Israeli food. (Orel Cohen/Flash90)

Virginia Tech University and Israeli food maker Strauss Group have set up an R&D and marketing initiative to help Israeli agriculture and food tech startups, both early stage and more established firms, expand their activities in the US market.

Israeli companies have been invited to make presentations to a joint team of R&D experts from Virginia Tech and Strauss on January 22 at the Strauss headquarters in the central Israeli town of Petah Tikva for entry into the program. Later this year, selected companies will travel to Virginia to further their business development.

The new agro/food tech program will provide these startups with funding opportunities and business development meetings with experts in Virginia, opportunities to team up with other groups, technology validation, consumer testing and the necessary permits and regulations, the two companies said in a statement.

Startups specializing in food tech and agriculture are encouraged to apply. Possible focuses include sugar, salt and fat reduction technologies, breeding techniques, improved nutrition methods and digital solutions, food safety, aquaculture, soil sciences and food and product process quality monitoring.

“Our goal is to identify five Israeli agro/foodtechcompanies with outstanding technologies,” said Ralph Robbins, executive director of the Virginia-Israel Advisory Board in the Governor’s Office of Virginia. “For them we will deploy a plethora of resources from Virginia. Over the last decade we have created a pipeline of Israeli ventures that have found their US homes in Virginia and this cooperative venture with the Strauss Group will strengthen Virginia and Israel’s business development.”

Food tech funding and the number of deals climbed steadily from 2012 to 2014 before skyrocketing in 2015 to 273 deals totaling over $5.6 billion, said New York-based data company CB Insights. However, the sector saw a drop in funding in the first half of 2016.

“This program is the result of an memorandum of understanding signed between the Strauss Group and Virginia Tech,” said Dr. Eyal Shimoni, vice president of Technologies at the Strauss Group. “We wish to promote tech development toward healthy food solutions, improving the quality of life for consumers worldwide. The agriculture and food tech industries are ripe for growth and we are looking forward to playing an important role.”

Foodmaker Strauss Group, which makes Israeli brands like the chocolate pudding Milky, coffee and salads, set up its “Alpha Strauss” arm some five years ago to work with advanced-stage tech firms to create new technologies for the food industry — for better manufacturing processes as well as healthier foods. In June last year Strauss set up its The Kitchen tech incubator, which aims to invest in early-stage technology ventures that are relevant to the food industry. The incubator provides a home for entrepreneurs and a breeding house for new technologies, the Strauss website said.

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