Israeli investment firm Impact First Investments (IFI) announced today that it has invested an undisclosed amount in Catalyst AgTech, a company dedicated to developing technologies that minimize the environmental impacts associated with agrochemical products. As public awareness regarding the negative impacts of agrochemical usage grows, many companies are looking for new products that boast the same effectiveness without the environmental costs.
According to Shalom Nachshon, Co-Founder and CEO of Catalyst AgTech, this “strategic partnership with IFI will allow Catalyst AgTech to expand our R&D activities and accelerate our time to market.” IFI’s investment strategies focus on viable and socially driven companies, including the sourcing and screening of impact-first ventures that achieve capital gains while promoting social welfare.
IFI targets opportunities for technology-based impact-first investments. Impact investing focuses on the concept of “doing good while doing well,” and strives to redirect market forces in the private sector toward outlets that provide widespread societal benefits. This dual-mission creates a unique type of value that many shareholders specifically look for when making investments. As the Co-Founder and Managing Partner at IFI, Cecile Blilious notes that “[a]s the need for technologies that enable farmers to continue using effective, field-proven products in a way that minimizes the negative impact on the environment continues to increase, demand for products such as those being developed by Catalyst AgTech will dramatically rise.”
Pesticides have become a critical component of agricultural production around the world. This lucrative market was valued at $46.1 billion in 2012, and is estimated to reach $65.3 billion in sales in the year 2017. In recent years, governmental authorities like the Food and Drug Administration and Environmental Protection Agency have ramped up regulatory efforts regarding the use of synthetic pesticides, and have even banned the usage of certain agriculture chemicals deemed harmful to humans and the environment. This has created a tremendous opportunity for innovations and developments that address farmers’ need for pest and disease control in the face of increasing regulatory constraints and consumer scrutiny.
Catalyst AgTech’s products feature a patented “self-destruct” technology for use with persistent pesticides. Persistent pesticides are a form of pesticide that is unlikely to break down in the environment. These chemicals have a high potential to accumulate in plant and soil materials—and the insects that feed upon them. Predators who consume the pesticide-rich insects gradually accumulate a high level of the pesticide in their systems, often leading to severe health problems for animal populations, including death.
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Catalyst AgTech has developed a way to stop the persistent aspect of these pesticides without compromising the chemicals’ effectiveness as a weed and pest control agent. With the aid of the company’s self-destruct component, the persistent molecule in the pesticide is broken down after it travels below the root zone, thereby dramatically reducing absorption of the chemical into the soil and groundwater. Catalsyt AgTech offers a number of self-destructing catalysts that can be paired with a wide variety of commonly used agrochemicals. Additionally, the catalysts are suitable for use in over 40 percent of current agrochemical ingredients, including widely used weed, fungi, and pest control chemicals.
Due to the products’ ability to limit the environmental impacts associated with pesticide use, Catalyst AgTech may have found a way to reduce regulatory authorities’ concerns regarding the use of some agrochemicals, which may alleviate some of the regulatory pressures facing farmers and ranchers. Additionally, the newfound availability of self-destructing catalysts may spur the development of entirely new pesticide products.
AgTech is heating up throughout Israel, which has been referred to as the “start-up nation.” IFI’s announcement comes on the heels of Agritech Israel’s 19th International Agriculture Exhibition & Conference held in Tel Aviv, Israel. The convention is designed to foster connections between some of the world’s most influential agriculture tech developers and investors. Attendees included marketing, R&D, and manufacturing personnel from around the globe.
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Photo Courtesy of Huffington Post.