“Is this how it is doomed to end?” It was one of the most simple, concise statements at this month’s COP26 climate conference this month. Yet far from being pessimistic, it was a rallying cry, as Sir David Attenborough suggested that since we’re affected by dire issues, we can come together now and solve them.
“We are, after all, the greatest problem solvers to have ever existed on Earth.”
Few places have ingenuity, tech prowess, and problem-solvers in such abundance as Israel, where there are more unicorns per capita than anywhere else on earth. While most of the success thus far is enjoyed by startups in conventional spaces such as cyber, retail, and gaming, a shift is underway. According to a recent Israel Innovation Authority report, 10% of all newly established startups are part of the climate tech ecosystem this year, and total funding for the space during the first half of 2021 was 40% of the amount for the last three years combined.
Here are five of the most promising early-stage climate tech startups and technologies in Israel that could prove vital in battling the world’s most formidable threat:
The company managed to develop a breakthrough cooling material that uses sunlight to trigger a reaction converting heat into radiation in a process called “anti-Stokes fluorescence.” The result is a 60% reduction in energy consumption, which alleviates pressure on strained energy grids. Use cases that hold the most promise are urban environments which become “heat islands” and vehicles that would become far more efficient. Think Tel Aviv in August without the pricey electricity bill.
Founders: Yaron Shenhav & Gadd Jodie Groas
Investors: The Chartered Group, Israel Innovation Authority (grant)
Perovskite or PV solar cells, which could be the basis of next-gen solar tech. Made of a crystalline substance that absorbs light with far greater efficiency, Solra’s cells, which are still in development, would have several major advantages, including fewer costs, easier installation, and the ability to be attached to buildings or used as windows. Those unique traits enable it to easily power IoT devices and provide power just about anywhere. One day your t-shirt could potentially charge your phone.
Founder: Professor Lioz Etgar
Funding: Not disclosed
Investors: Not disclosed
Consumers seem increasingly focused on pesticide residues in the foods they eat, but what they and much of the agricultural industry fail to take into account is the 75% of the chemicals lost during the application process. Inaccurate spraying is becoming a rapidly growing issue with short and warmer winters caused by climate change leading to more pests and herbs surviving and developing a resistance to pesticides. The solution is all too often to spray pesticides more frequently, translating to lost profits for growers and higher levels of toxins in the food we eat, as well as to accelerated development of tolerance. DriftSense applies state-of-the-art computational technologies in analytical chemistry, meteorological, and dispersion modeling science to provide growers with a tailor-made approach to save resources and keep pesticide usage from skyrocketing.
Founders: Elad Segal, Ran Shauli, Pavel Kunin
Funding: Not disclosed
Investors: Israel Innovation Authority, UnBox Ventures, MassChallenge.
A staggering 40-60% of fruits and vegetables go to waste worldwide and the production of wasted food in the US alone requires the expenditure of around 300 million barrels of oil and over 25% of the total freshwater used in the country. The solution has all too often been plastic packaging, which might preserve food freshness, but at the cost of polluting our oceans, killing food sources, and degrading the environment even further. Sufresca tackles the issue with an edible coating that provides longer shelf life than its plastic counterparts and is incredibly easy to apply. The company already has one granted and two published patents, along with additional applications that increase crop yields.
Founder: Prof. Amos Nussinovitch
Investors: OurCrowd, Feat Investments, Rimonim Venture Capital
Around 8,300,000,000 tons of plastic waste has accumulated worldwide and there will be plenty more produced and sent to a landfill before cleaner alternatives are deployed in their place. Plasticback finds a novel solution to deal with the plastic that is already in landfills – which the EU pledged to reduce by 10% by 2030 – and being treated at facilities at high costs. Their method, based on chemical oxidation, attacks plastic polymers and breaks plastic down to oils, waxes, and other valuable chemicals, essentially converting it back into its original form. The startup is already getting plenty of attention, winning several awards including the European Commission’s Climate Kic acceleration program where it won first for climate tech out of a field of 2,000.
Founders: Tal Cohen & Alex Braun
Funding: Not disclosed
Investors: Unknown Group, Plug, and Play Tech Center
To be sure, tackling climate change will take a global effort, as no single country can solve the issue on its own. While Israel isn’t the largest or most powerful country in the battle, it can still play a meaningful role in providing scalable innovation that helps make a dent in emissions and contributes to averting a man-made disaster. These five early-stage startups hold incredible promise when it comes to making a contribution and the good news is that there are hundreds more and bigger percentages of climate-tech startups to come.