As you’ve probably seen from my latest posts, I have recently decided to open an innovation center on our Neve Ilan campus. Today, I wanted to provide you with a glance into our thought process as we form our vision and objectives for the center.
First, I was humbled by your enthusiasm and happy to receive exciting ideas from entrepreneurs – in various fields – who truly want to promote meaningful change through technology. It also spurred my team and myself into fascinating discussions as we tried to figure out exactly where and how we’d like to invest our resources. All sorts of exciting ideas came up: from digital health to wearables, wellness and connectivity – essentially, everything that we’ve been doing successfully so far. Then, my long-time partner, Chief Scientist of our group and of the center, as well as Powermat’s original CTO, Dr. Amir Ben Shalom, directed our attention to an illuminating article he published over 10 years ago in Galileo magazine.
In his article, Amir surveyed mankind’s quantum technological leaps in the past couple of millennia, zooming in on three (very) general fields: transportation, communication and food. In our ability to move humans and goods, we’ve gone from steam engines and flying balloons to crossing the ocean at (nearly) the speed of sound in only two centuries. Our ability to communicate with one another has also improved tremendously – even since the beginning of the 20th century – allowing us, these days, to transfer any type of information to any location on earth within seconds and less.
Now let’s move to food. Human beings succeeded in using technology to enhance their ability to obtain food and control its production. Our earliest food technologies enabled ancient societies to transform themselves from groups of hunter-gatherers – that had to change locations frequently according to seasonal changes and reduction in available plants or animals – to sedentary societies. The ability to stay in one place, grow a community and feed different craftsmen and artisans is what ultimately led to the social-cultural structure all of us at the western world live in.
And yet, if we look closer, then sure, we’ve accomplished a lot with our abilities to cultivate, heat and preserve food, but here is Amir’s mindboggling question: if farmers, these days, grow wheat only ten times more efficiently than farmers in the fertile crescent thousands of years ago – and especially if we try and equate this with the astonishing progress in other fields we mentioned – have we really tried our best to make sure there is enough food to meet the world’s needs in a sustainable manner?
Neither of us has a definitive answer; perhaps once food production reached a certain level of stability, western civilization directed its energy and ingenuity in other directions. However, with the UN estimating that food production will need to double by 2050 to meet a 2-3 billion growth in population, and climate change forcing agriculture to quickly adapt, it’s clearly time we spend more of our resources and efforts on food tech. Innovation here runs the gamut from agro-technologies that make agriculture more precise, smart and efficient through monitoring and predictive IoT systems and analytics, to hydroponic technologies speeding growth and enhancing potency of plants, and much more.
We’re still in the process of assessing precisely where, in this vast world of food tech, we can bring the most value to entrepreneurs. I look forward to the journey ahead and invite those of you who are a part of this space to reach out and share your ideas with us.