The ICL Planet Startup Hub

Combining Entrepreneurism and Ingenuity in Agritech and Food Tech 

ICL’s Planet Startup Hub is rapidly becoming a powerful force for innovation in the vital agritech and food tech fields. The high-tech unit is enabling the launch of profitable new companies through its agritech and food tech incubator and accelerator, and providing startups with investment capital, market access, R&D collaboration, specialist advice, and access to ICL’s scientific resources and expertise. 

Every food tech and agritech startup that is developed through the ICL Planet Startup Hub can make an important contribution to meeting the challenges of feeding the world’s growing population and creating a new global paradigm of sustainable agriculture that benefits local communities, food producers, consumers, and the environment itself. 

We’ll take a closer look at why the need for innovation in agriculture is such a pressing issue, as well as some examples of how the ICL Planet Startup Hub is contributing to the new agritech and foodtech transformation.

The Urgent Need for Advanced Agritech

Organized agriculture is a relatively new phenomenon in human history. The general historical consensus is that our ancestors transitioned to settled farming communities around 12,000 years ago. This fundamental shift occurred after more than 300,000 years of precarious existence as nomadic hunter-gatherers. 

Many ancient civilizations mastered the challenges of agricultural production and thrived, but subsistence agriculture was also an enduring reality that continues today for hundreds of millions of people worldwide. Poor harvests or crop failures are disastrous for communities on marginal lands and can directly impact the quality of life for people in advanced societies. 

Despite the science-based agricultural revolutions of the last 400 years and an empirical approach to crop production and animal husbandry, our food supplies still depend on good weather conditions, adequate water and fertilizer sources, effective measures to combat pests and crop diseases, and functioning supply chains. Any prehistoric agronomist would immediately recognize the challenges facing us in the 21st century. 

Food Production Challenges in 2023

The global population has grown massively since World War Two, almost quadrupling in size. The United Nations estimates that it will peak at 9.8 billion in 2050. Even under optimal conditions, feeding close to ten billion people would represent a major challenge. 

Current conditions are a long way from being optimal, and will not improve fundamentally without a sustained and coordinated effort. What is needed is a seismic shift away from 20th-century agricultural methods towards sustainable high tech farming.

The Conflict in Ukrain

Ukraine is historically a major food exporter. Its vast plains with rich black soils and warm summers make it ideal for grain, cereal, and vegetable oil production. The country was previously regarded as the breadbasket of Europe.

Ukrainian Agricultural Market Share by Volume

  • Wheat (10%), 
  • Barley (13%), 
  • Corn (15%), 
  • Sunflower oil (50%)

The current fighting in Ukraine has significantly disrupted food production and the interdiction of Black Sea ports has further slowed exports. Countries like Egypt, Lebanon, and Tunisia that depend on Ukraine for many food staples face food insecurity. In Egypt, bread provides 30% of the daily calories for the average person.  

Even if the situation in Ukraine is resolved peacefully, this illustrates how easily geopolitical events can send staple food prices soaring. In a globalized economy where most sovereign states have neglected localized food production as a strategic industry, most of us are frighteningly dependent on fragile global supply chains. As of 2023, 80% of the human race lives in countries that are net importers of food

The Growing Impact of Climate Change

Whatever the causes of climate change, the climate is unstable and weather patterns are increasingly unpredictable. The US alone has experienced over 341 weather and climate disasters since 1980 with a fiscal cost in excess of $2.4 trillion. Severe droughts have affected several food producing areas of the planet in recent years. The US, Europe, India, and China all experienced diminished harvests as a result of high temperatures and reduced rainfall. 

The UN Food and Agriculture Price Index (FFPI) monthly figures made for alarming readings in 2021 and 2022. The index peaked at an unprecedented 158.4 in April 2022.

FFPI Constituent Highs 2022

  • Meat – 125.9
  • Dairy – 150.2
  • Cereals – 173.5
  • Vegetable Oil – 229.2
  • Sugar – 121.5

When we look at the numbers from a human perspective, we see financial hardship, fear, hunger, and social and political instability. The index reduced during the first months of 2023, but the situation remains volatile. The real tragedy is that high food prices, shortages, and supply chain disruption are entirely avoidable. 

The Global Fertilizer Shortage

Humans have relied on fertilizers to maximize harvests and plant quality and health since agriculture began. Mass agricultural production rapidly depletes soil nutrients and depends on the availability of cheap and effective fertilizers. The commodities crisis ( with high energy prices and the war in Ukraine) has raised the cost of industrially manufactured fertilizers to the point where many farmers cannot afford to adequately fertilize their crops. 

The high cost/reduced availability of fertilizers contributed directly to rising food costs and can potentially reduce future harvests in 2023 and 2024. ICL is already tackling the issue with its major investment in phosphate recycling and marketing of sustainable fertilizers. The availability of cheap, environmentally friendly fertilizers is a key pillar of sustainable agriculture and the problems of the last few years have highlighted its vital importance. 

If we’re to feed the growing population, it’s clear that farmers and food producers need greater agility and adaptability to ensure their own profitability as the unpredictable global weather systems disrupt traditional farming practices. Governments, NGOs, and corporations need to facilitate smart (AI and data-driven) agronomy and food tech innovations to ensure that supplies of affordable food staples continue to reach consumers. 

The Role of the ICL Planet Startup Hub

The ICL Planet Startup Hub is part of ICL’s commitment to achieving sustainable agriculture on a worldwide basis and implementing the United Nations Strategic Development Goal of Zero Hunger. 

The Hub acts as an enabler for new agtech businesses that will play their own role in reclaiming marginal lands for agriculture, improving harvest yields and crop resilience, creating alternative protein sources, and streamlining supply chains. 

The Planet Startup Hub agritech and food tech incubator and accelerator are making dreams come true for a new generation of food tech innovators, but that is only one aspect of the Hub’s role. The global partnerships that the Hub creates allow a fusion of specialist knowledge, energy, idealism, and entrepreneurial spirit that is transforming the entire sector. We are connecting the finest minds in the fields of food tech and agritech. 

How Does the Planet Startup Hub Work?

The Planet Startup Hub works on the basis that every new startup is unique and requires a tailored investment strategy. The hub is designed to help both early-stage agrifood startups and later-stage startups and dramatically shorten the journey to full profitability. 

Early-stage food tech and agritech startups are nurtured in the agrifood tech incubator. The partnership with ICL delivers a wealth of diverse assistance, expertise, and resources under a single roof. This begins with access to lab facilities and corporate mentorship and extends to field trials, beta testing, and field trials, additional R&D support, collaboration on applications, and finally product launch and marketing. 

Market ready can slot into the agritech and food tech accelerator and focus on following the market highway track. The ICL Hub can authorize investments of up to $350,000 for very early-stage projects, rising to $1,000,000 and beyond for early or later-stage startups and functioning companies. 

Food Tech Partnerships at the ICL Planet Startup Hub 

Protera – Pioneering AI-Driven Novel Ingredients

Protera Biosciences is an innovative startup that is using AI as part of its mission to develop novel protein-based ingredients for food manufacturers. Protera is one of the most exciting food tech startups currently in operation and their use of the madi™ deep learning platform to identify viable vegetable proteins is groundbreaking. ICL Planet collaboration with Protera has the potential to transform food supply chains. 

Arkeon: Converting Greenhouse Gas into Valuable Nutrients

Arkeon is potentially revolutionizing food production with a new process that aims to capture the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) and convert it into proteinogenic amino acids that are essential for human nutrition. The ICL Planet Startup Hub is investing $2.75 million in Arkeon’s precision fermentation methods. In addition to delivering game-changing food tech concepts, Arkeon’s production processes are sustainable and low impact, requiring minimal natural resources to produce high-quality nutrients.

Plantible Foods: Sustainable Plant Protein as a Superfood

Protein is a key component of any healthy diet, but demand for traditional animal-derived proteins places a huge strain on the environment. Plantible Foods is an exciting B2B food tech company that is creating edible proteins from the plant genus Lemna – better known as duckweed. Lemna is fast-growing, nutrient-dense, and ideal for sustainable factory farming in high-tech production units. 

Agritech Partnerships at the ICL Planet Startup Hub 

CropX: Boosting Crop Yields and Reducing Costs for Farmers

CropX is a startup that focuses on precision agriculture. It uses advanced technology to deliver field-level solutions that can make a real difference to farmers and agronomists. Sophisticated soil sensors and cloud-based technology are used to optimize efficiency and reduce costs across irrigation, fertilization, and energy use – all via a user-friendly mobile app. Farmers can create tailored, localized solutions to boost their crop yields and minimize their operating costs. 

ICL Invests $10 Million in Lavie Bio’s BioStimulant Products 

ICL is investing $10 million as part of a strategic partnership with Lavie Bio Ltd. The funds are allocated for the development of novel biostimulant products to enrich fertilizer efficiency. The project is channeled via the Hub and will focus on using big data and informatics to create high-performance (and environmentally friendly) bio-stimulant and bio-pesticide products. These will play a major role in producing high-yield crops within a sustainable framework. 

ICL Planet ecosystem engagement with key AgriFood Accelerators 

StartLife: Connecting, Enabling, and Driving Agritech Startups

The ICL Hub teamed up with StartLife – one of Europe’s leading startup accelerators – to build a global network of food and agritech innovators. The goal is to connect entrepreneurs with investors, mentors, and all the specialist assistance that fledgling businesses need to prosper. StartLife has an amazing track record that includes practical help (and over €320 million in funding) to over 400 Eurozone startups. 

Agtech Garage & ICL – Pioneering Next Generation Fertilizers

ICL has launched a new strategic partnership with Agtech Garage, one of South America’s biggest and most influential agribusinesses. The partnership will see a joint collaboration on some groundbreaking digital projects and the development of next generation fertilizers. As with all ICL partnerships, there will be a strong emphasis on designing sustainable products, as well as improving the nutritional value of food, and allowing greater crop yields.


The EIT Food Accelerator Network (EIT FAN) is one of the world’s most effective food innovation communities. Both the ICL Planet Hub and ICL Food Specialties are working with EIT FAN to bring together an even greater number of agrifood and other related startups based across the entire EU. The goal is to tackle the challenges of sustainable food production and create an effective mechanism for rapidly developing powerful new technologies and bringing them into action.

ICL is interested in hearing from anybody with a good idea. We love original thinkers and innovators and there is usually a ‘meeting of minds’ when we first sit down with fellow food tech entrepreneurs. The Planet Startup Hub is specifically geared to welcome crop nutritionists and food tech specialists who have ideas for new products or services in these fields. 

If you share our commitment to creating a new global culture of sustainable agriculture and implementing the UN’s 2nd SDG of Zero Hunger, you’ll definitely feel at home in the Planet Startup Hub. Our Hub staff are committed to scientific and technical excellence – and to turning outstanding ideas into profitable ventures – but they’re also driven by the need to make the world a better place. If you’re on our wavelength, come and join us!