Lessons from Israeli AgriTech – report from a recent delegation of New Zealanders and Australians

The Israel Institute of New Zealand has previously written about some of the AgriTech links between Israel and New Zealand and an interview with Arama Kukutai, who is at the forefront of some of those links.

In May, a delegation of Australian and New Zealand professionals – producers, farmers, service providers, consultancies, government, academia and banking – representing over 25 different organisations visited Israel to learn about how the country promotes AgriTech growth.

The delegation visited Israel because it has a population of over 8m (almost double New Zealand) and a land area of 22,000km2 (half the size of Canterbury), an uncertain geo-political climate, and a challenging agricultural environment with only 20 percent of the land being arable. Israel has triumphed in the face of this adversity to become a world leader in AgriTech.

The trip was organised and managed by the Trans-Tasman Business Circle in partnership with the The Israel Trade Commission, Australia and led by Miles Hurrell, Chief Operating Officer Farm Source, Fonterra. A report from the delegation, written by Marco Clobo, Partner of Deloitte, and Xavier Rizos, Innovation Entrepreneur In Residence at Westpac, identifies five key lessons learned.

From the report, these are summarised below:

  1. The legacy of history: Struggle turned to advantage

Throughout history, the Jewish people have faced adversity and persecution. Through this shared history they developed a culture of “chutzpah” – roughly defined as audacity and self-confidence, which results in an ability to meet challenges head-on and, with some creativity, transform weaknesses into strengths.

  1. Israeli culture: Yozma, chutzpah and kibbutz

Israeli culture is unique and influenced by both the diversity of its people and the overlap between social and commercial community connections. This is a small and multidisciplinary country, with one degree of separation resulting in high connectivity.

  1. R&D in Israel: Investment and ingenuity

Lacking natural resources, Israel has consistently prioritised education and research. The nation spends 4.1 to 4.25 percent of GDP on civilian R&D – more than double the European Union average of 1.9%, and one and a half times more than the US average of 2.79%.

  1. The military “hub”: Recruiting the best and developing the brightest

Israel has mandatory military service for both men and women. This has had a significant impact on Israeli society and has helped infuse multiple aspects of an entrepreneurial culture.

  1. Think global: A global vision from the start

Israel’s global vision is applied both internally and externally. As a nation, they welcome diversity with unique immigration policy. Externally, they recognise that they are a small country with a small market, therefore entrepreneurialism and commercial innovation must skew towards ideas that chase international interest. These five themes are similar to the “6 C’s” reported by the 2016 innovation delegation led by Spark CEO, Simon Moutter.

We hope there are many more opportunities for bilateral collaboration and learning between New Zealand and Israel. After the 2016 delegation there was talk of an innovation agreement but even without such a formal arrangement, it is great to see mutual benefits between the two nations.

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