Finistere adds Israel execs

Gil Meron and Eyal Rosenthal will work with California-headquartered agtech venture firm to expand its presence in a country the firm labels a center for agricultural innovation.

Agtech venture capital firm Finistere Ventures has hired two Israel-based executives to explore investment opportunities in the country and work with existing portfolio companies.

As venture partners, Gil Meron and Eyal Rosenthal will be the first to be based in Finistere’s Tel Aviv office – opened about 18 months ago – and will report to San Diego-based co-founder Arama Kukutai.

“There’s a lot more opportunity and dealflow [in Israel] than we had originally set ourselves up for,” Kukutai told Agri Investor.

Meron joins Finistere after six years as a principal at agricultural-focused Israeli investment firm Yarden Group. Rosenthal currently serves as a managing director at Israeli-Chinese private equity firm Infinity Group, a position he has held for seven years, according to his LinkedIn profile. Both will continue working with their current employers in addition to their roles as venture partners at Finistere, Kukutai said.

He noted that while Finistere has no plans to invest in Chinese agtech directly, Rosenthal’s experience will be useful for portfolio companies hoping to access China’s market and that Chinese investors have been “a major source of exits in other sectors.”

Israel’s position as a center of innovation in agriculture, especially irrigation, is well-established and Kukutai said that recent years have seen a continued development of the sector alongside the country’s broader technology industry. He explained that a new wave of information technology companies have combined the latest developments in sensing technology, agronomy and engineering with big data analytics to focus on precision agriculture.

Kukutai added that a rush of venture capital investments into Israel’s software and life sciences sectors have helped develop a talent base of coders, programmers, and artificial intelligence specialists who are starting to concentrate their efforts on agricultural technologies.

“There’s been a very significant uptick in quality companies leveraging across sectors beyond just the more traditional engineering and life sciences space,” he said.

Finistere was founded in 2005 and invests in private companies across the agricultural and food value chains and company life cycle. The firm raised a total of $35 million across two funds in 2005 and in February 2015, held a $37.5 million first close on its Finistere Ventures II fund, which has a target of $200 million.

Current agriculture-related investments in the Finistere portfolio include CropX, an Israeli analytics company offering adaptive irrigation services; Shopell, a personalized healthy eating app; and ZeaKal, a traits technology company targeting improved soybean yields.