“Agricultural technology is experiencing phenomenal momentum today, similar to what the water industry experienced a few years back,” says Oded Distel, head of Israel NewTech. We spoke with Distel about new trends in Agritech, in the midst of the Agritech 2012 event taking place now in Tel Aviv (May 15-17). More than 7,000 foreign visitors from 115 countries are at the Agritech trade show and conference, looking into the latest innovations and discussing industry trends.

One of the more interesting trends in the world today, affecting Agritech, is connected with civil responsibility. Distel tells about a conversation he had with one of the world’s leading food & beverage companies, which is becoming more and more interested in following up on the source of its raw materials. “I think the atmosphere of civic responsibility and social awareness in the world is growing, and companies are being held accountable, even in cases like this, where the supply chain goes even 7 links back,” says Distel. “This is probably the way to fight negative practices such as child labor and practices which harm the environment.”

But the most prominent trend is the rise of Agritech innovation and the growing interest and focus on this sector, due to the world’s growing populations and evolving needs and demands on the one side, and dwindling resources on the other. A day before the opening of Agritech 2012, Israel NewTech hosted the Agrivest investment summit. “It was interesting to see companies at Agrivest that a few years ago no one would have thought would be getting involved in the sector,” says Distel, referring amongst others to IBM, which was represented at Agrivest by Rich Kottmeyer, Global Agriculture and Food Leader, IBM USA.

Another trend is the quickly growing sector within Agritech involved with seed breeding technology. By breeding seeds using advanced technologies, it is possible to improve crop quality, and use a lot less pesticides, which makes for more environmentally sound, cost-effective, efficient and even healthy crops. A number of Israeli companies are leading the work in this arena, including Kaiima, Rosetta Green, Evogene (and Evofund) and Moraflora.

At Agritech 2012, the Ministry of Industry Trade and Labour signed a cooperation agreement with representatives of the Kazakhstan Water Authority, which is facing a number of major challenges in the water arena, both in providing water for agricultural purposes and for the population, and issues with water loss. Within the framework of the cooperation Israel NewTech will provide know-how on water technologies and solutions, and the Kazakhstan Water Authority will cooperate with Israeli water companies to try to bring together cooperations and projects. Representing Israel at the talks and signing was Oded Distel of Israel NewTech, Yaakov Lev from the Israel Water Authority, Avi Aharoni from Mekorot, and Avital Ohara from the Ministry of Energy. The Kazakhstan Water Authority was represented by Director Issakhanov Maxat and Chairman Temirgaliev Rustem.