A Green Accelerator on the Shores of the Sea of Galilee

By: The Chief Scientist's Unit

The KKL-JNF–Kinneret double accelerator – collaboration between Kinneret Innovation Center (KIC) and KKL-JNF – accelerates students and graduates and also startups that want to do good for the planet, by means of grants, professional assistance and many tools that help northern entrepreneurs to color our lives green.

KKL-JNF is an organization with an unusual characteristic – on the one hand an Israeli "dinosaur" that is identified with the founding of the state and pioneers dancing the hora, which has accompanied us since former times and became synonymous with planting and nature, and on the other hand a modern, innovative, pathbreaking institution, whose guiding principle is progress. While "ancient" organizations often tend to suffer from unwieldiness and archaism and display minimal curves of change, KKL-JNF is exactly at the other end of the spectrum. In view of these facts, an entrepreneurship and innovation accelerator under its auspices was only a matter of time.

Forest Fire in the South. Photograph: Benny Robinov, KKL-NF
Forest Fire in the South. Photograph: Benny Robinov, KKL-NF

Meet the joint accelerator of KKL-JNF and Kinneret Innovation Center (KIC), which itself is the initiative of two courageous bodies with a green perspective on the future: Kinneret Academic College, which leads in the fields of water engineering and agrotech in Israel, and Zemach Enterprises, one of the biggest agricultural cooperatives in Israel. The project, which is currently celebrating its fourth anniversary, is intended to provide entrepreneurs from the north of Israel with fruitful soil for turning Israel into a leader in the field of agrotech (agricultural technology), watertech (technology in the field of water), foodtech (guess), renewable energy, climate and sustainability.
Kinneret Innovation Center (KIC) is an innovative and ambitious project, which is creating a national growth engine in the north of Israel and is based on developing and nurturing knowledge- and technology-rich companies in the fields of agriculture, water, sustainability and climate while harnessing the strengths of human capital and knowledge accumulated in the fields of water, sustainability and agriculture to create innovative solutions to global challenges and to build an advanced economy in the north of Israel. All this is taking place in the framework of a holistic ecosystem, which connects academia, industry, startups, researchers and the community under one roof.

Back to the accelerator – this is how it works: every year an accelerator takes place in two tracks, one for student entrepreneurs, and the other for mature startups, which already have proven technology in relevant fields and want to "make it big time" and research global markets. The accelerator lasts three and a half intensive months, and includes competing for initial grants for the leading projects.

Whoever enters the accelerator enjoys a focused and intensive track, which includes close guidance from the stage of the initial idea to a project that makes money, with the support of professional mentors, grants, direct links to industry, academia and resources for the needs of POC studies and pilots, and connections to a large network of potential investors and customers in Israel and abroad – an overall support system for turning the project from a dream to a success.

Some examples of the accelerator's products that have already touched the skies with impressive recruitments, are BeeFree Agro, which monitors pastures using drones (2 million dollars), AgriWare, which offers innovative tools to increase the yield of the crop in deciduous trees (half a million dollars) and Zorronet, which has developed a system based on artificial intelligence that alerts against thieves of agricultural equipment, agricultural terror and wild animals that damage cultivated land (half a million dollars).

The accelerator particularly assists KKL-JNF in its core field of preserving forests. Examples of this are the startups 3is, which develops an atomic spectroscopic emission sensor, which contributes to the fast discovery of fires from a significant distance and over a wide area; Forest Chief, which focuses on discovering fires before they occur using an innovative camera and drones; and influe, which offers an advanced system for the war against fires on the basis of geographical information and an algorithm that analyzes the behavior of a fire. All three startups, cultivated in the accelerator, provide solutions that save time and money in discinterestovering and dealing with fires, save animals and plants, and significantly improve the efficiency of dealing with the danger of fires starting in the forest.

Dr. Doron Markel, Chief Scientist of KKL-JNF, determinedly leads this exceptional joint project, as part of the Climate Center vision that he promotes among the many innovative projects that he and the unit he manages are responsible for. According to Markel, the Climate Center – which opened in November 2021 with the aim of reducing emissions and increasing absorption of greenhouse gases, and preparing for extreme climate events and disasters – will contain in one place the abundance of professional knowledge and tools needed to achieve the climate objectives that Israel has sent itself, and to advance our startup nation to become a nation that also leads in the field of climate.

Moreover, as part of the vision of turning the Galilee and the Negev into the growth engine of Israel by 2040 and extending the "startup nation" to the periphery, with relocation of half a million Israelis to the Galilee, today KKL-JNF Zemach House is being built in the Galilee for advanced industries on an area of 5,500 square meters, or in its full name, the Science and Innovation Park – National Center for Technology, Science and Innovation in Agriculture, Water, Sustainability and Climate. This complex, which is a joint project of KKL-JNF, Kinneret College and Zemach Enterprises, will be an applied and academic technological center for local and international innovation and entrepreneurship in the fields of agritech and technologies, and among other things will be the home of the accelerator and of selected startups, alongside a school for innovation and entrepreneurship and some of the most advanced laboratories of their kind in the world.

Have we whetted your appetite? Registration for the fourth accelerator is now open through Kinneret Innovation Center's website, and is aimed at teams with an initial idea and startups at a more advanced stage (early stages). This time, the focus will be on the following three fields: climate education, renewable energy and reducing and preventing flood damage. You are invited to be carried away by ideas!

The accelerator's activity is one of the many channels in which there is joint work of KKL-JNF and the northern college, in an extensive effort to improve Israel's carbon footprint (the amount of greenhouse gas emissions in the country) and promote innovation in the fields of sustainability, the environment, agriculture, land, the forests and public areas. At the end of the day, the entrepreneurial project involves advanced thinking about the environment, investment in the periphery and also advancing Israel in additional fields of innovation, in addition to those in which it is already outstanding. Three birds in the hand, or even better – in an embrace.