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Smorgan boosts agri exposure through Hebrew University fund

An unnamed Chinese-Israeli investor group is expected to add to the $4m Agrinnovation close.

Australian investment company Victor Smorgon Group has led a $4 million close for Agrinnovation, a fund to develop agtech research at Hebrew University of Jerusalem for commercial use. The university’s Yissum Research Development Company and its employee pension plan, Provident Fund also contributed.

The fund will look to invest annually in around five early-stage projects from Hebrew University’s Robert H Smith Faculty of Agriculture, according to a press release from the university’s Yissum Research Development Company. The objective of the fund is to bring projects to proof-of-concept phase, setting them up for launch as individual startups.

“Agrinnovation is an efficient investment vehicle in the next generation of groundbreaking innovation, which will ultimately give rise to innovative agtech products,” said Agrinnovation chair and Yissum chief executive Yaacov Michlin.

The fund anticipates another $2 million investment from an unnamed group of Chinese and Israeli investors, according to the release.

The fund’s first investment will go toward development of an edible, biodegradable coating to extend the shelf-life of fresh produce. The protective film is currently being developed by Hebrew University faculty. Other projects approved for fund investment include a controlled-release medication treatment for animals and an electronic pest control system for crops.

For Victor Smorgon Group, the investment in agtech comes amidst a push to bring speciality Australian exports directly to Chinese consumers. In July, Business Spectator reported that the group is currently involved in separate projects marketing baby formula and entire cows to Chinese consumers.