Israeli agritech prowess to help New Jersey produce healthier food


Each time Margaret Klein visits Israel, the agricultural technology amazes her. 

"You can see fresh produce growing straight out of the desert ground,” said Klein, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore. 

The University is honing in on this "amazing" agricultural technology in Israel with an agreement on the advancement of healthy food products created between Tel Hai College, a college located in Northern Israel, according to The Times of Israel.

At a ceremony at Rutgers on Sept. 18, the school reached this agreement. Israel, a leader in agricultural technology, and New Jersey, a leader in processed food production, merged in hopes of benefiting both of their economies while helping create healthier food.

The New Jersey and Israel Healthy, Functional, and Medical Foods Alliance was formed and focuses on scientific research, technology commercialization, business incubation and education in order to make healthier foods, according to rutgers.edu.

“Israel and New Jersey have a common interest, to produce healthier foods and research how the food industry is evolving,” said Lou Cooperhouse, director of Rutgers Food Innovation Center and President of New Jersey Business Incubation Network.

Forming the alliance with Israel has the highest potential for success because of Israel’s strong interest and advancement in agricultural technology, Klein said.

New Jersey and Israel also have a long-standing relationship. They are similar in size, population, diversity, college education level, interest in innovation and entrepreneurship, Cooperhouse said.

“We will be seeing explosive growth in the food and wellness industry during the coming decades, particularly in the categories of healthy, functional and medical foods," Cooperhouse said.

The University’s wide-ranging research capabilities, faculty expertise and business incubation leadership provide a strong platform for the alliance, said Christopher Molloy, senior vice president for Research and Economic Development at Rutgers.

He said the alliance could have a substantial economic impact and further engage Rutgers researchers with some of New Jersey’s most important industry sectors.

The possibilities of this collaboration have high expectations for the economic development benefits for New Jersey, Michele Brown, president and CEO of Choose New Jersey, an agency focused on marketing for economic development, told The Times of Israel.

“With the food and life sciences industries being such key components of our state’s economy, and their linkages to so many businesses in New Jersey, this alliance can have a huge impact on the marketplace and on job creation,” Brown said.

For Tel Hai, the alliance is one of the highest-level international agreements it has entered, according to rutgers.edu. The Alliance will work to establish a new National Institute in the Galilee region of Israel, focused on basic and applied research, and business incubation and acceleration, in healthy, functional and medical foods.

Erel Margalit, chairman of Knesset’s Economic Development Taskforce, told The Times of Israel that establishing regions of excellence across Israel will attract investment and encourage significant job growth.

At Rutgers, students and professors are anticipating positive effects from this alliance. 

“It is wonderful that Rutgers and its peer academic institutions in Israel are able to partner for all humanity,” said Rabbi Esther Reed, senior associate director of Rutgers Hillel.

There is opportunity for both students and faculty, Cooperhouse said.

“At the faculty level we're looking at starting joint research, and for students we're looking at exchange programs and experiential learning,” he said.

The alliance is expected to significantly enhance scientific research, spur innovation, accelerate new business creation, attract academic and industry human capital and also attract venture capital and public and private sector funding, according to the University website.

But the effects are not intended to stop there, Cooperhouse said. 

“We have a desire to expand this alliance and welcome other research organizations, universities and partners in the near future,” he said.


Noa Halff

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