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ICL Group backs AI-powered agritech start-up Agrematch

ICL Group’s collaboration with Agrematch is set to accelerate innovation in plant nutrition with the power of artificial intelligence. Photo: Supplied
ICL Group’s collaboration with Agrematch is set to accelerate innovation in plant nutrition with the power of artificial intelligence. Photo: Supplied

ICL Group, a global specialty minerals company, has taken a significant leap into the future of agriculture with its investment in Agrematch, an AI-powered agritech start-up. This strategic partnership aims to harness artificial intelligence to discover ground-breaking crop nutrition solutions, promising innovation in its product offerings.

Founded in 2017 by industry veterans and entrepreneurs, Agrematch has been developing its proprietary AI platform, known as AI4AI (“artificial intelligence for active ingredients”). ICL Growing Solutions, the agriculture division of ICL, is collaborating with Agrematch in an investment venture aimed at enhancing its long-term growth strategies.

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The Agrematch platform is set to yield exclusive biostimulants and plant nutrition products, optimising plant and soil health, and elevating crop yield, quality, and resilience.

In recent years, AI has played a pivotal role in discovering and developing innovative compounds, particularly in the pharmaceutical industry. A study by Insider Intelligence in April 2022 revealed that pharmaceutical companies have slashed nearly 70% of their discovery costs by leveraging AI. This method has the potential to reduce the average seven-year timeline for bringing a candidate compound to trial by up to five years.

Hadar Sutovsky, vice president of external innovation and general manager of ICL Planet Startup Hub, emphasised, “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.”

Meeting a critical need

Addressing the urgent demand for sustainable crop nutrition products, the current discovery process has fallen short. The time-consuming, expensive, and high-risk nature of product development, combined with increasing regulatory demands for environmentally-friendly products, has resulted in a decline in new product introductions.

A faster and more efficient method for identifying active ingredients for agricultural products is imperative.

Eyal Ben-Chanoch, CEO of Agrematch, stated, “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.”

AI-powered solution

The AI4AI system developed by Agrematch trains models to meet specific product concepts. Predictive algorithms sift through billions of molecules in a proprietary database to design novel compounds, creating a shortlist of candidates with the desired functionalities.

Dr Elinor Erez, vice president of R&D for ICL Growing Solutions, explained, “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, agronomical 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.”

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