Innovation Endeavors, the VC firm founded by Google chairman Eric Schmidt, has recently invested in CropX, an Israel-based irrigation company, via the Farm2050 collective.
Founding managing partner Dror Berman talks about the idea behind Farm2050, why CropX was its first investment and venture capital – particularly agtech venture capital – in Israel.
What is the partnership with Farm2050?
We formed the Farm2050 collective in November 2014 to create an ecosystem of resources for entrepreneurs in agtech. The idea behind the collective is to provide resources beyond just capital. While we are excited to make investments in agriculture, we also believe it is important to provide access to other resources such as access to test fields, introductions to pilot customers, manufacturing advice and capacity, and so on. Each of our partners provides a unique resource to the collective and is excited to work with start-ups pursuing innovative technologies in this field.
So far, the collective has been very successful – over the last few months, we have added several new top-tier industry partners and seen over 350 start-ups reach out with interest in Farm2050. Moreover, we’ve hosted a design sprint for an early-stage start-up, made introductions to pilot customers for a few startups and hosted two networking events in Tel Aviv and San Franciso. Our goal is to break down silos and encourage collaboration – we are connecting the dots amongst investors, start-ups, industry partners and academics.
Why choose CropX as the first investment with the partnership?
CropX stood out for its interdisciplinary team, the fact that it was solving big, immediate pain points for growers, and its huge longer-term opportunity to become the digital agriculture platform. In particular, water management has become not only a hot topic due to the issues with the California drought, but is also a critical pain point for many farmers. CropX provides an elegant, seamless solution (requiring only three low cost sensors) that enables growers to reduce water spend, improve yields, and comply with regulatory requirements around nitrate run-off. Moreover, we are excited about the way CropX can become a game-changer in digital agriculture outside just irrigation. We see the progression from data collection to analytics to real-time automation and believe that these products will become the platform for many other developers, providing data and effective distribution channels to a new wave of entrepreneurs.
What do you think of the venture capital space in Israel?
Israel is one of the top entrepreneurial ecosystems in the world — there is a high concentration of smart people working on interesting problems. This community is supported by best-in-class academic and research institutions and a drive for innovation. In the case of agriculture, it was innovation by necessity — Israel needed to find ways to support farming with a limited set of natural resources. Whether it’s in agriculture or in other industries, Israel continues to support an active startup scene developing ground-breaking technologies in big markets. We continue to be inspired by Israel’s ongoing work in areas like agriculture, genomics, biologicals and cyber security.