Innovation, Sustainability Global
December 12, 2023 | 13–16 min read

ICL Invests in AI-Power for AgriTech!


The ICL Group partners the highly promising AI-powered startup Agrematch. 

Artificial Intelligence – AI – is revolutionizing how we do business across every sector and is transforming our day-to-day lives in the process. Some of the most exciting possibilities of new AI technology are in the vital AgriTech sector. AI applications in AgriTech are enabling a great leap forward and may allow to provide food security to the entire planet within a generation. ICL is focused on developing AI in agriculture and is actively backing the most talented new AgriTech innovators. 

The Importance of Artificial Intelligence in the Agri-Food Sector

The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs predicts that 68% of the world’s population will live in urban areas by 2050. At a conservative estimate, at least 6 billion people will depend on an extended supply chain to meet their daily food consumption requirements. The stability of our global society, and the future of countless people, depends on our ability to produce affordable, nutrient-dense food – and to process and distribute it effectively. 

Of all industries, agriculture is arguably the most vital – and the most fragile one. Farming is uniquely vulnerable to a range of pressures including climate change, pests and predation, diseases, shortages of fertilizers, and irrigation problems, many of which are external factors beyond the control of farmers and agronomists.

The uncertainties of climate change, and increasingly disruptive extreme weather events, are exacerbating the traditional challenges to food production. If farmers are to reliably feed a human population that recently topped 8 billion, and make a profit in the process, they need access to the latest technologies. AI agriculture startups can potentially deliver the tools that farmers and agronomists need to successfully adapt to a changing environment. 

Artificial intelligence in the Agri-food industry is already making an impact on research and development. Among other breakthroughs, scientists are now able to reveal and predict the molecular basis of plant traits behavior or identify new pesticides with predictive AI. 

The initial performance of AI applications in AgriTech suggests that AI is set to become a game-changing tool across the entire spectrum of agrifood-related sectors, from laboratory-based AgriTech research to crop growth,  food production anddistribution.  ICL was quick to see the exciting potential of artificial intelligence and is proactive in building partnerships and investing in AI AgTech startups like Agrematch. 

ICL Group & Agrematch: A Strategic Partnership

ICL Group is a renowned specialty minerals producer and supplier, and also a leading manufacturer of sustainable next gen fertilizers. The company has more than 12,500 employees located at its plants and research centers around the world and commits significant resources to innovation at every level. This commitment to RD&I extends to the development of AI applications in AgriTech.  One of the ways ICL is fostering the development of AI applications is through investments in  AI AgTech startups via its Food and AgriTech accelerator Planet Startup Hub. 

ICL Growing Solutions, the agriculture division of ICL, is collaborating with Agrematch, one of the world’s most innovative AI agriculture startups, in a new strategic partnership. Agrematch was founded in 2017 and is located in Rehovot, Israel, close to the prestigious Weizmann Institute and ICL’s own research facilities. 

The shared goal of the partnership is to harness artificial intelligence to discover crop nutrition solutions that can impact crop yields and plant health at every level. The combined resources, scientific and commercial knowledge, and research capabilities of ICL and Agrematch can significantly accelerate innovation in the field of plant nutrition

AI4AI: A Revolutionary Platform for AI in Agriculture

At the heart of Agrematch’s drive to discover active ingredients for plant nutrition is its revolutionary proprietary platform AI4AI – Artificial Intelligence for Active Ingredients. The AI4AI platform meets a critical need for affordable innovation in a field that is operating well below its true potential. 

Currently, companies are challenged by the high costs of new product development and unfavorable time-to-market realities, as well as complex regulatory requirements. AI4AI has the potential to slash costs, streamline processes, and enable a new generation of vital crop nutrient products. 

Eyal Ben-Chanoch, CEO of Agrematch offers some valuable insights into the AI4AI platform’s breakthrough capabilities.

We are excited to partner with ICL and explore new solutions for plant nutrition. Using data science, and especially AI, has helped us to dramatically alter the discovery process, by eliminating both its sequential nature and the barriers that make the classical high-throughput screening methods costly, risky, and time-consuming. Our AI4AI platform was designed and built to discover new functional compounds that meet defined specifications.

The Critical Enabling Role of AI in Compound Discovery

The global pharmaceutical sector has certain parallels with the AgriTech sector. Both rely on R&D to discover functional compounds that can be harnessed to create new products. Like their counterparts in the AgriTech sector, pharmaceutical R&D faces the challenges of conducting groundbreaking research in a landscape defined by budgetary restraints, obsolete systems and processes, and ever-changing regulatory requirements. 

AI is transforming research and product design within the pharmaceutical sector and provides a proven model for the AgriTech sector to emulate. The results of AI innovation in pharma are encouraging. According to a 2022 report by Insider Intelligence:

  • Pharmaceutical companies have reduced discovery costs by 70% by utilizing AI. 
  • A candidate compound trial with a typical seven-year timeline could be shortened by an average of 2 years. 

Hadar Sutovsky, VP of External Innovation and General Manager of ICL Planet Startup Hub anticipates similar improvements in the compound discovery process across ICL’s own agricultural development ecosystem.

 “ICL’s partnership with Agrematch brings the rapidly evolving application of AI into ICL’s agricultural development ecosystem. Agrematch’s AI4AI prediction platform has the potential to streamline our compound discovery process, reduce the time and costs involved, and lead to the development of more effective and efficient crop solutions.”

Platforms like AI4AI will make agronomical research cheaper, faster, and more streamlined, and allow greater participation and collaboration from diverse stakeholders. The volume and scope of research projects will increase and the time to market will significantly decrease. 

Dr. Elinor Erez, VP of R&D for ICL Growing Solutions explains the strategic importance of the collaboration between ICL and Agrematch:

“This collaboration will focus on developing novel biostimulants products that provide superior results for plants. It supports our strategy to continue investing in the ag-biologicals market, which we see as highly complementary to – and aligning with – our existing agriculture business and the future of our specialty crop nutrition portfolios.

“ICL brings a huge contribution to this strategic collaboration, as this promising start-up will enjoy access to the global crop nutrition market, regulatory insights, agronomic aspects, and development, along with the best-in-class group of R&D scientists and agronomists. Following an extensive evaluation of Agrematch’s technological capabilities, we are excited to collaborate with them to deliver novel ag-biological products to the global market.”

More on the subject:
Digital Solutions with ICL- Agmatix Creating Value from Agricultural Big Data
GROWERS: Easy-to-use Tech in the Hands of Farmers
ICLeaf – A New Technology for Long Term Nutrient Analysis of Plants

The Benefits of a Strategic Partnership

Agrematch’s ability to identify active compounds for the Agricultural industry with predictive AI puts it within reach of a very attractive market niche. A strategic partnership with ICL offers Agrematch a fast track to achieving regulatory insights, establishing itself as a market leader, and positioning itself for further growth. ICL has ready access to global markets and offers ongoing collaboration with its own R&D experts, as well as access to its professional networks and organizations. 

ICL Growing Solutions can only benefit from a long-term association with a young company of Agrematch’s caliber. A platform that can reveal molecular behavior with predictive AI has potential applications across several ICL’s key enterprises. AI in agriculture is still in its infancy, but it may represent a technological realization of the fabled philosophers’ stone that alchemists sought to turn base metals into gold. 

ICL has grown exponentially over the last century due to its capacity for innovation and ability to identify – and master – the new technologies that matter. ICL’s researchers and corporate leaders are genuinely excited by the potential of AI to transform agronomical research and streamline the development and launch of new AgriTech products. 

The technical advances come at exactly the right time, as companies like ICL are striving to make sustainable agriculture viable and secure global food supplies for the next generation. The collaboration between ICL and AI agriculture startups like Agrematch is a significant step towards achieving that goal and driving the new agricultural revolution forward. 

The agricultural sector has traditionally been slow to exploit new technology, but it can’t afford to lag behind in the implementation of AI. ICL has the vision, the experience, and the resources – as well as the spirit of innovation – to lead the global transition to AI in agriculture, food production, and food distribution. 

Natanja Slager, PhD

This post was written in cooperation with

Natanja Slager, PhD

Natanja has over 15 years of executive management experience in the biotech, agritech, and foodtech industries. She has expertise in scaling companies from scratch while overseeing general operational management, innovation management, and business development. Natanja has a PhD in Bioinformatics from the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research and an international EMBA from the Kellogg School of Management from Tel Aviv University. Prior to her role at ICL, Natanja was COO of Rootility Ltd. and founded NESS Projects, where she provided consultancy services to both startups and corporate companies in organizational alignment, strategic planning, and business development.

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