Facing a decline in next-generation farmers, a new Israeli VC sows capital into smart agricultural initiatives from young entrepreneurs down on the farm.
Menachem Friedman, 67, is a successful peach and nectarine grower in the Golan Heights. He followed in the footsteps of his parents, Transylvanian farmers who came to Israel after surviving the Holocaust.
Today across the developed world, older farmers like Friedman are encouraging their children to pursue more lucrative and secure white-collar careers.
Yet, four of Friedman’s seven children planted their own roots on the family farm: Sharya, 42; Israel, 40; Ido, 35; and Nachshon, 29.
“We chose agriculture out of a conscious choice that this is where we want to be,” Nachshon Friedman tells ISRAEL21c. “Each of us brings with us innovation and a young spirit into a relatively old-fashioned world that has a lot of room for advancement.”
These are not the farmers of yesteryear. Sharya is finishing his doctorate in archeology, Israel and Ido are certified engineers and Nachshon has a master’s degree in economics and business administration.
Nachshon and his dad launched a startup, Mata, to address the worldwide farm labor shortage by developing an autonomous method of thinning trees – a critical but expensive, slow and labor-intensive task that determines the size (and therefore the price) of each fruit.
Mata is one of a handful of forward-thinking agricultural enterprises under consideration for support from a new investment company, Eretz-Noshevet (Settled Land).
Venture capital would allow Friedman to create a prototype from his bootstrapped technology that will “analyze the market of each farmer and advise what fruit size to reach in order to earn as much as possible from his orchards. Each of us will receive a different thinning program to reach the right fruit size,” says Friedman.
“The financial return of the farmers will be optimal, which will allow the survival of more farmers in the field and the continuation of the supply of food around the world despite the expected food crisis.”
To ensure the future of agriculture
Eretz-Noshevet was spun out of the nonprofit HaShomer HaChadash (The New Guard) organization founded in 2007 in response to agricultural crime affecting Israel’s remote northern and southern farms.
Today, thousands of volunteers help protect 1,400 farms, says HaShomer HaChadash CEO and founder Yoel Zilberman, a third-gen cattle rancher.
It became obvious that the average Israeli farmer is over 60 and the next generation isn’t going into the family business. At the same time, there are some young, business-savvy farmers like Nachshon Friedman with sustainable and fresh ideas needing investment.
Originally posted at israel21c.org