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Israeli ag tech delegation visits St. Louis

(illustration by Susannah Lohr, St. Louis Public Radio)

The BIRD Foundation has fostered partnerships between Israeli technology startups and companies and U.S. corporations since it was founded in 1977.

Now the group has brought its first delegation to St. Louis.

Twelve Israeli ag tech companies are in town for a two-day visit to make pitches to investors and meet individually with Monsanto, KWS and others.

Limor Nakar-Vincent, the BIRD Foundation’s deputy executive director for business development, said there’s an emphasis on collaboration in St. Louis’ bio-science and ag ecosystem.

“It’s very unique to find such strong local commitment that truly believes in a win-win situation for both helping foreign companies come over and establish roots and vice versa,” she said.

BIRD helps connect U.S. and Israeli companies and provides funding of up to 50 percent of project development and product commercialization costs. Nakar-Vincent said that can be for as much as $1 million, with a match from a U.S. company.

BioSTL hosted the delegation in St. Louis, setting up the schedule of meetings and events. The non-profit has helped attract five Israeli startups to expand into St. Louis through its GlobalSTL initiative.

Those companies are finding St. Louis is playing a critical part in their success and they’re sending that message back to Israel, according to GlobalSTL’s director Vijay Chauhan.

“The BIRD Foundation very quickly realized that for them to bring value to the next batch of agri-tech companies, St. Louis is now a proven model,” he said.

Having the delegation in St. Louis also serves another purpose. Chauhan said it’s easier to sell St. Louis’ benefits when people can see it for themselves. The delegation spent time at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center on Monday, where investors gathered for an afternoon pitch session.

SMART! Fertilizer Management was among the 12 companies pitching. The startup has developed a SAAS (software as a service) platform to help farmers optimize their use of fertilizers.

Tal Amram, vice president of business development, said the company is working in 65 countries.

“We want to take that to the next level and being here in St. Louis is something that may assist us in taking that successful startup two steps ahead,” he said.

The delegation next heads to California.

Follow Maria on Twitter: @radioaltman

Maria is the newscast, business and education editor for St. Louis Public Radio.