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Climate Smart Israel – a visit to the ‘Financial Innovations Lab’

Secretary Ross at the Financial Innovations Lab at the Milken Innovation Center in Israel

Secretary Ross at the Financial Innovations Lab at the Milken Innovation Center in Israel. State Board of Food and Agriculture president Craig McNamara is at the far left.

Secretary Ross traveled through Israel this week with a California delegation interested in adaptation strategies for climate change and drought

Yesterday, as our travels through Israel neared their conclusion, our delegation participated in the Financial Innovations Lab of the California-Israel Global Innovation Partnership, sponsored by the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies Milken Innovation Center.  The topic of the day was accelerating the growth of agricultural technology in Israel and California, a focus resulting from the 2014 M.O.U signed by Governor Brown and Prime Minister Netanyahu.

Given our week of travels learning about Israel’s water solutions, the subjects of technology, increased efficiency, and recycled water utilization were all top of mind for us Californians!  But the discussion was much broader – identifying the conditions, barriers and opportunities facing agricultural producers, and the range of technologies that could be deployed to ensure global food security in the face of climate change.  Meeting future global demand will require investments in a combination of yield improvements, resource optimization and loss reduction.

A discussion about the barriers to Ag tech financing really focused on the issue that Ag tech doesn’t generate the rate of return compared to other elements of the tech industry, and the discussion touched on the need for patience due to the seasonality of production agriculture.

In addition to talking about the need for investment to stimulate accelerated and wide-spread adoption of Ag technologies, there was a spirited discussion about infrastructure: the importance of objective third-party-generated data and demonstration projects; the value of publicly funded research; new opportunities for public-private-philanthropic partnerships; the critical role of getting government policies right; and the proven success of offering incentives to accelerate the adoption-curve of new technologies.

Over and over again, we stressed how important it is to clearly understand problems from the growers’ point of view and develop technology solutions in concert with growers to shorten the cycle for commercialization. Too often in recent years, technologies have been presented that are disconnected from the realities in the field and time is lost to screening the sheer number of new technologies being offered. This is where the value of incubators and the example of the Western Growers Innovation Center were offered as solutions.

It was a stimulating discussion, and I look forward to a report on the session and draft recommendations. Following all that, our final afternoon in Israel ended with a tour of Old City Jerusalem before our 9 p.m departure for Ben Gurion Airport.

Secretary Ross with members of the California climate change delegation and several of their Israeli hosts

Secretary Ross with members of the delegation for the California Climate-Smart Agriculture Policy Mission


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