ICL Group launches hub to fast-track food and agriTech innovation to market

By Gill Hyslop

- Last updated on GMT

ICL is scouting out food and agriTech startups that have breakthrough ideas. Pic: ICL Group
ICL is scouting out food and agriTech startups that have breakthrough ideas. Pic: ICL Group

Related tags ICI Group innovation hub Foodtech agriTech Sustainability

The Israeli minerals and chemical specialist has launched ICL Planet Startup Hub, which will provide pioneering start-ups with backing and mentorship to propel game-changing ideas to market.

ICL Planet will act as an innovation catalyst for early stage, pilot-ready start-ups, as well as more mature, market-ready start-ups that can demonstrate a measurable positive environment impact.

It focuses on two core areas of competency: the first related to crop nutrition, such as organic fertilizers, nutrient use efficiency, biostimulants, micronutrients and nitrogen fixation; the second in the areas of alternative proteins, natural ingredients, plant-based functional ingredients and white biotechnology.

ICL has appointed incubation and investment expert Hadar Sutovsky as VP of External Innovation and general manager of ICL Planet. Sutovsky is a seasoned player in the foodTech and sustainable agriculture arena, with previous partnerships including the Aquagro Fund, the Global Unilever Open Innovation Hub and Frutarom.

Sustainability values

“We seek start-ups aligned with our organisation on sustainability values and product direction,” ​said Sutovsky.

“The goal is to synergise efforts and know-how to meet the fundamental needs of our customers and to work together to solve key challenges in the food and agri industries. Start-ups that join us benefit from our corporation’s accrued wisdom and advanced infrastructure, and to attain a fast-track route to commercialisation.”

ICL Planet Startup Hub is an extension of ICL’s programme initiated in 2014 to scout out breakthrough technologies from universities, institutes and early-stage start-ups. The company sponsors long-term R&D and proof-of-concept projects in exchange for a royalty-bearing license.  Since its inception, it has nurtured more than 45 projects, with another 13 ongoing.

Through the programme, they can leverage ICL’s extensive infrastructural ecosystem, including investment, co-working space, access to laboratories and R&D support, with options for field trials and new product pilots.

“As global leaders in the field of agriculture, food and engineered materials, we are constantly developing impactful solutions to improve the quality of life for millions worldwide via our established R&D infrastructure,”​ added Sutovsky.

“Our value proposition is much more than merely funding; we answer early stage companies’ needs to run pilots and move them to the commercial stage with full support.”

Forging impactful partnerships

More mature start-ups with market-ready products will have access to ICL’s Market Runway Track programme, which accelerates innovation through investment, business development and strategic partnerships, including an opportunity for M&A.

ICL Group is a leading global specialty minerals and chemicals company that creates impactful but sustainable solutions in the food, agriculture and industrial space. It is dually listed on the NYSE and TASE, and employs more than 11,000 people worldwide. Its 2020 revenues topped $5bn.

“A key milestone in our business transformation is centred around the idea of responsibility for our collective future and leading innovations that can favourably impact the industries we work in,”​ said Anantha Desikan, EVP and chief research, development and innovation officer of ICL.

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