The Australian Israel Chamber of Commerce’s recent Agrifood mission to Israel is reflective of a wider Australian effort to shift from mining to agriculture
As Australia looks to expand its economic activity beyond the traditional mining sector, it aims to utilize its other great asset: agriculture. The Australian-Israel Chamber of Commerce’s recent Agrifood mission to Israel is reflective of this effort, where they drew on the technical expertise and innovative systems of Israel’s world-renowned AgTech ecosystem.
Led by AICC CEO Michelle Blum and Peter Schutz, Chairman of Food Innovation Australia, the wide range of delegates comprised representatives from government, Ag Food industry groups, agribusiness companies, universities and farmers looking to gain insight into improving their processes. As with other AICC trade missions, the intensive week-long program gave delegates context to the history of Israeli-Australian bilateral relations and exposure to the underlying startup nation enablers. Namely, these drivers were research commercialization and innovation infrastructure, including AgTech specific incubators and accelerators, technology transfer arms, venture capital firms and agricultural service providers. Delegates also witnessed firsthand the leading edge practices employed by Agtech companies, ranging from smaller players and larger companies like Netafilm, envisioning the future of the industry.
Delegates also heard from Knesset Member and Jerusalem Venture Partners Founder Erel Margalit, who spoke with the delegation about the agri-initiative he is spearheading in the Upper Galilee. The joint initiative between Rutgers University in New Jersey and Tel-Hai College aims to tackle food related problems such as allergies and obesity through the development of edibles engineered to alleviate these issues.
Commenting on the outcomes of the mission, Michelle Blum remarked the overwhelmingly positive reception from participants who left with newfound appreciation for the risk taking and collaborative culture of the Israeli ecosystem, underpinned by the collective engagement of all sectors of society in innovation. Also of particular interest was the approach larger corporations were taking to integrating innovation into their operations, often with an outlook of fostering unbridled innovation without a set outcomes and increasing staff retention through the opportunity to independently work on pioneering projects.
The mission also showcases the timely opportunity presented for Agrifood in the wake of the industrial research and development agreement signed between the NSW Government and Israel. Michelle commented that AgTech presents a “point of significant competitive advantages and is a continuing source of dialogue running complementarily to both Australia’s and Israel’s interests in the AgriFood field.”
Given the success of 2016’s visit, there is also the high likelihood that the trip will become a regular event offered to industry players. Looking ahead, this heightened interest in the area will probably lead to an increasing number of agri-focused research and development companies re-evaluating their models of collaboration enabled by both the NSW R&D agreement and the shared insights between both countries.