There is an overall sense of foreboding in the world today that in the next few decades we will experience deficiencies in water, food and energy – mainly due to global warming. This concern has motivated heads of state, as well as international bodies such as the UN and The World Bank, to take steps to preserve the resources to sustain humanity. A great deal of international research is currently focused on finding solutions for the enhancement and improvement of food and energy-related crops which adhere to sustainable agricultural modules; in other words -agriculture which preserves resources, rather than destroys its environment. Accordingly, the emphasis has been on the ability to improve both the crop itself and its adaptability to soil conditions.
One Israeli company which has been active in this area and is showing great potential is Kaiima. The company was established in 2006 as Biofuel International with the initial intention of focusing solely on biofuel. However, after a year, “We decided to deal with the issue of sustainability and broaden our activity spectrum to the central field crops in the world today”, says Doron Gal, the company’s co-founder and CEO. “The company’s unique crop productivity enhancement technology was developed by a team of experts – including employees of former Dutch seed company De Ruiter – headed by our co-founder Amit Avidav,” Gal adds.
Today, the company focuses on 3 areas of activity:
- Breeding widely distributed food such as wheat, rice etc.
- Breeding high-yielding castor and sugarcane varieties, in collaboration with BP (British Petroleum)
- Vegetable breeding – in 2005, a number of De Ruiter alumni established a company that focuses on vegetable seeds, and today the Company’s products are selling strongly, with a dominant market share in the tomato niche in Israel. In 2011 this area of activity was brought under Kaiima‘s umbrella.
According to Gal, the company encapsulates the cross between the high breeding capabilities of quality varieties and a new method of genomic multiplication. It’s this technology, in his opinion, which allows for the enhancement of crops and their improved adaptability when under stressful conditions (due to severe weather, water types, salinity), in areas most prone to disasters and crop failures.
In the field of widely distributed food, the company is in pre-commercial testing stage. “From these preliminary tests it has been found that thanks to our technology we are able to make high percentage improvements in wheat and rice yields, in varied climates – both in Israel and abroad,”, says Gal.
In the vegetable field, the company already has an extensive product range – and has made significant profits. The aim now is focusing on building an international distribution system, with a drive to develop high-yielding varieties suitable for their target markets, which will be transferred to them in seed form. “The right thing to do is export the product together with the knowledge, and not the final product”, says Gal.
In the Biofuels field, the company has high-yielding castor seeds that are already producing sales, and according to Gal “From analysis we’ve conducted, our castor is the highest producing variety of castor. We also have a number of new varieties currently undergoing tests in vast areas of Mexico, the U.S., Peru, China and other countries around the world”.
As to sugarcane, a field which Kaiima claims is very much on a global rise, the company is still at R&D stage, and the target markets for this are Brazil, the U.S., South Africa and the Far East.
- During 2007: Capital investment of $1.4 million.
- May 2008: Obtained first capital investment of $10.5 million from 3 entities: DFJ (an American-based venture fund) and DFJ Tamir Fishman and Musea Ventures.
- April 2011: Obtained second capital investment of $20.5 million from blue-chip fund Kleiner Perkins, giant Japanese conglomerate MITSUI, American agricultural venture fund EXALTA and existing investors.
- Today the company employs 50 core workers (R&D, Operations and Marketing) as well as another 100 hired agricultural workers, all in Israel.
Kaiima is now exhibiting with a booth at Agritech Israel 2012 , at Hall 10 Booth 21.