How does a world of billions feed itself sustainably in the future? Agtech — agriculture technologies — are the key. And Israel is driving much of this innovation, from non-toxic pesticides to high-yield seeds, to sensors that tell farmers when plants are thirsty. Gideon Soesman, 44, is betting on agtech as the next big investment ecosystem. Soesman – a Dutch native who facilitated the $700 million acquisition of Avent by Royal Philips Electronics in 2006, when he was Philips’ senior director of corporate mergers and acquisitions – today heads GreenSoil Investments in Ra’anana, north of Tel Aviv. This venture capital firm strictly invests in agricultural and food technologies — and yes, he says, people thought he was absolutely nuts three years ago when he announced his mandate. “Today, people get it. It was the same as the early days of the Internet. If there is a need, the investment case will be good,” he tells ISRAEL21c. “There is this huge macro thing going on,” Soesman explains. “Soon there will be nine billion people who’ll need to eat. There is not enough food, not enough land, and we need technologies to bridge the gap. Israel is a leader in agro- and food-tech and has a developed high-tech investment ecosystem, but I noticed that no one was focused on investing in this space.” He has identified Israel along with The Netherlands, Canada, Australia and the Midwest United States as the regions most interested in investing in this area. To date, GreenSoil has raised more than $30 million and has invested half of that. Two thirds of the funds have come from Canada, where Soesman’s co-founder Alan Greenberg is located, with the other third coming from the US, Europe and South Africa. After vetting more than 300 companies over the last three years, GreenSoil has invested in five companies, and plans on making one additional investment over the next couple of months. “I find this fascinating,” says Soesman: “I am enjoying this new wave and I think that we’re just in time.” Soon, GreenSoil will be opening a Netherlands office in addition to its existing offices in Israel and Toronto. “This will give us a true global coverage and enable us to monitor new developments in the key regions for this sector,” says Soesman. Starting next year, GreenSoil will also invest in Europe. The Israel landscape provides a lot of overlap between agro-and food-tech and conventional high-tech. For example, technologies developed in military intelligence units or in startups focused on areas including software, imaging, communications, healthcare or enterprise software are being applied in the agricultural technology sector. In addition to precision technologies that help farmers do more with less, Israel is also strong in imaging and image processing technologies that can help farmers better understand the needs of their crops by analyzing the land from above, says Soesman. Several Israeli companies, like Agam and Sensilize, are venturing into this area. (via Israel21c)
Concerns over Iranian expansionism spike as Tehran offers Lebanon weapons
Posted by Albert Gersh - December 23, 2014
Iranian Parliament Chairman Ali Larijani arrived in Lebanon on Monday, the second stop on a three-country tour - Syria and Iraq are the other two destinations - amid growing concerns from the Sunni world and boasts from Tehran that have the Iranians controlling four Arab capitals. Larijani, meeting with Lebanese Defense Minister Samir Moqbel, reportedly renewed an Iranian offer to provide the country’s army with weapons “unconditionally and free of charge.” In Syria the day before, Larijani reaffirmed Iranian support for the Bashar al-Assad regime, to which it has for years provided funds, weapons, and military training. Speaking to reporters, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem, per Iran’s Mehr News Agency, “stressed that Iran has played an effective and constructive role in dealing with regional issues.” Tehran has for years been criticized by regional powers for interference in countries’ domestic affairs and for stoking regional instability – it has among other things provided funding and military training to Houthi rebels in Yemen, funded its Hezbollah proxy in Lebanon, propped up the Assad regime in Syria, and provided weapons to Palestinian terror groups operating out of the Gaza Strip. A Jerusalem Post analysis of Iranian efforts in Yemen noted that a dynamic in which the country is controlled by Tehran-backed rebels would threaten not only the Jewish state but half a dozen other countries in the Middle East and East Africa, due to Yemen’s strategic positioning on the Arabian Peninsula.
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