As the world population increases, so does the global demand for food. At the same time, we face declining resources of clean water and available land, and climate change is likely to have long-term effects on crop yields. Consumers are also demanding high quality food and significant attention has turned to the impact of food on health, which has affected consumption patterns and regulation.
To meet these challenges, food companies and investors are looking for technological solutions to age-old problems of crop yields, food storage and distribution, and tasty and easy meal preparation. Companies are investing in sustainable plant-based foods, new protein sources such as insects (!), and innovative delivery systems.
Israel’s role in Agri-Food Tech
Israel is in an excellent position to become a leader in Agri-Food Tech, as it already boasts top-quality human resources, successful Agri-Food companies and unparalleled technology innovation and infrastructure. The rich pool of talent and high level of government support make conditions ideal for industry growth. The proven Israeli ecosystem for the Agri-Tech industry includes top-notch academic training in the field at institutions like Tel-Hai College and cutting edge research institutes such as the MIGAL–Galilee Research Institute.
The fastest growth areas in Israeli Agri-Food Tech are smart farming and ag-biotech. Smart farming incorporates modern technology and innovation into traditional agriculture, and provides farmers with the ability to manage their property and production chain more efficiently. Predictive analytics and big data allow farmers to make smarter decisions regarding issues such as irrigation and pest management. Ag-biotech focuses on breeding plants and bacteria with improved traits to create healthier crops and higher yields.
Other innovations focus on food products. Indoor farms, aquaculture, and insect, algae and microbe production are examples of novel farming systems that allow for variance in produce and increased market value. With the continual search for healthy dietary protein, Israeli researchers are experimenting with producing plant-based meat, cultured meat and dairy products and other novel ingredients. Medical food, nutraceuticals and supplements are also being developed.
It is no secret that Israel is a leader in water engineering and irrigation innovation. Companies in Israel are constantly aiming to create more efficient and innovative irrigation and water-saving methods. Water engineering research also focuses on treatment of agricultural effluents and wastewater to minimize environmental impact.
The Eastern Galilee as an Agri-Food Tech center
The Galilee is considered to be one of Israel’s most beautiful regions. The rare ecological diversity in a radius of about 40 kilometers, from the Golan Heights mountains to the Hula Valley, and the varied agricultural activity taking place in the region, are a foundation for groundbreaking research whose results have global significance. Tel-Hai College, the flagship college of the region, strives for academic excellence and innovation, and attracts faculty and students from across the country. Prof. Yossi Mekori, President of Tel-Hai College, says that the college’s spirit was inspired by the founders of the region. “In the early days, they hiked two hours up and down the mountain to bring water. This legacy, that the greater the challenge, the greater the opportunity, is an excellent compass for us,” he says.
In 2018, Tel-Hai College and MIGAL–Galilee Research Institute signed an affiliation agreement, and will work in close collaboration to create cutting-edge research in Agri-Food Tech that will have an impact not only in that region but worldwide. The MIGAL–Galilee Research Institute conducts innovative scientific research activities, with research fields in biotechnology, biochemistry, nutrition and more. The affiliation agreement between MIGAL and Tel-Hai College strengthens the existing academic and research infrastructure of both bodies and facilitates the development and advancement of multi-disciplinary academic programs and research projects, as well as the continued building of the knowledge economy and leveraging industry in the eastern Galilee region.
Agri-Food Tech at Tel-Hai College
Faculty at Tel-Hai College conduct research in a wide range of fields, including agriculture, archaeology, environmental sciences, biological sciences and nutritional sciences. The College offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in food science, nutrition science, environmental science, water science and computer science, all key fields for advancing Agri-Food Tech.
The College has dedicated programs and facilities to advance the Agri-Food Tech field. These include a new analytical research lab, the most advanced food sensory lab in Israel, a product development kitchen, a pilot dairy plant and an educational winery. Scientists at Tel-Hai conduct research on healthy food and medical food and teach a product development course. In this course, food science students learn how to develop innovative locally-produced food products that are rich in protein, vegan and vegetarian and environmentally-friendly.
Research in the Food Sensory Laboratory tackles important issues in our everyday lives. One interesting study is developing a method to assess sensory characteristics of virgin olive oil and identify the main cause for sensory defects in the oil. Another project aims to find a way to reduce salt in fresh cheese, thus reducing overall salt consumption which may cause various diseases. Other dairy-related research investigates the ability to develop instruments that will detect the quality of milk, and alert for high levels of lactic acid or an off-flavor. The lab is working to develop animal protein products from insects.
As part of its expanding work in the Agri-Food Tech field, Tel-Hai College is planning to open the Food Innovation and Research Institute, to create a bridge of innovation and applied research between academia, the food industry and entrepreneurs worldwide.
The new Food Innovation and Research Institute aims to combine ideas and resources from the food industry and entrepreneurs, government and academia, and create a platform for problem solving and guidance while meeting government goals and performing cutting-edge scientific research. Plans call for collaboration with other academic institutions and with industry to develop a state-of-the-art research and teaching facility for food science and technology.
About Tel-Hai College
Tel-Hai College was established more than 20 years ago to render excellent higher education to the population of the Upper Galilee region. With over 21 undergraduate and graduate level programs, Tel-Hai College is a leader in innovation and cutting-edge research, teaching and community involvement. Scientists, researchers and practitioners in every department engage in joint projects and multidisciplinary research with leading universities around the world.
The unique agricultural region and varied ecosystems in the Galilee provide Tel-Hai students and faculty with access to an astounding array of research topics. The Faculty of Sciences and Technology is guided by the idea that students can play a vital role in developing and conducting innovative research. The Faculty of Social Sciences & Humanities tackles global and local issues in-depth, and conducts critical research in psychology, social work, education and other fields.
Tel-Hai students and faculty bring new energy to communities in the region through volunteerism, social activism and community education. At its heart, Tel-Hai maintains an entrepreneurial spirit, inherited from its pioneering founders, a spirit that infuses studies at Tel-Hai with creativity and innovation, making it one of the best educational institutions in Israel.
For more information about Tel-Hai College, contact Rachel Sachs, VP Global Partnerships & Development, firstname.lastname@example.org
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