Green venture table 17 Nov 2013

Setting the green venture table

  •   GreenSoil is setting the green venture table
    ​The new investment fund combines the best food and agro technology and innovators that Israel has to offer
  • Gideon Soesman of Green Soil felt the time was right to focus on agricultural investments in Israel
    By Rivka Borochov
    GreenSoil is a new venture fund from Israel which combines the best food and agro technology and innovators that Israel has to offer. GreenSoil founders promise a special insider’s eye on Israeli food technologies. And Israeli history has proven that the country can be a forerunner in this emerging industry.
    “If you look at Israeli success stories in agro technology, there are Netafim [drip irrigation], Zeraim Gedara [seed company], Hazera Genetics [seed company] and Hishtil [seed and seedling company],” says Gideon Soesman, a co-founder and managing partner of GreenSoil.
    “You see these success stories from Israel, yet no one has really focused on that area. There is a wide gap in the market, there is a global need and Israel has an answer but there were no funds going there. We want to help the world and help Israel while offering a business opportunity. It’s a no-brainer,” he says.
    Soesman is originally from Holland. His partner, Allen Greenberg, resides in Canada. Together with their team of four, they scour the Israeli landscape looking for food technology companies that are market-ready but lack enough capital to hit the global pavement running.
    Dwindling resources
    “We are the only fund in Israel focused on agro and food, and I think the rationale behind it is quite simple,” says Soesman. “The world has a problem –– there are several billion people on it who need to eat, but there is not enough food. We need to make more with fewer resources. To make that happen you need technologies.”
    The GreenSoil portfolio companies have been handpicked from a pool of more than 150 in Israel, so that investors will know where their cash will be going. These companies produce unique foodstuffs, food additives, seeds, irrigation equipment and agricultural management systems. They’re early-growth-stage, with revenues or close to first revenues.
    Most of the investors to date are from Canada, the Netherlands and the United States. Some 80 percent of investors in the venture firm’s first round have decided to join the second round, Soesman points out.
    “Our goal is to find and invest in the companies that push technological boundaries and will help the world to produce more with less,” says Greenberg.
    Investing in roots and grapes
    Two of the companies in the GreenSoil portfolio have barely gotten media attention but already have products: Rootility, which is in stealth mode, works to breed plants with better root systems so that plants can be stress tolerant, while output is optimized.
    Fruitura has developed a lab-based system to produce naturally occurring neutraceuticals at industrial levels. Its first product is based on grapes.
    GreenSoil’s stress on agro and food technologies is rooted in Israel’s early pioneer days and the work of the government-backed agricultural research organization, the Volcani Institute. The Volcani does a lot of work in genetic crossbreeding for increased drought and pest tolerance, putting Israel out ahead as a leader in this area.
    Those in the field already know what Israel has to offer. Thousands of internationals flock to Israel annually to take advantage of its agricultural expos and conferences. Thousands more come from developing nations to learn just how Israel has taken back a land filled with swamps and malaria at the beginning of the last century to one that now produces food-a-plenty for domestic and export markets.
    GreenSoil joins the green tech investment landscape in Israel with three other VCs. The largest one is Israel Cleantech Ventures, which focuses on a broad range of clean-tech innovators; there is AquAgro, which is predominantly investing in water technologies; and lastly Terra Venture Partners, which is fueling a few enterprises in wind energy and water-saving tech.
    What sets GreenSoil apart from the others, the founders claim, is an unwavering decision to fund and support food and agricultural technologies only.