Startup nations | Israel hits the road awash in water ideas for thirsty California

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Israel’s global leadership in water technology and innovation in water conservation and management have made the country a natural partner in helping to tackle California’s water challenges.

“We can’t make it rain,” Gov. Jerry Brown said in declaring a state of emergency on Jan. 17, 2014, “but we can be much better prepared for the terrible consequences that California’s drought now threatens, including dramatically less water for our farms and communities and increased fires in both urban and rural areas. … I’m calling all Californians to conserve water in every way possible.”

Ironically, as the governor was declaring a state of emergency, Israel was declaring a water surplus for the first time since its founding.

Two months later, with California already seeing the withering effects of drought on its land and its economy, Brown and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu signed a memorandum of understanding to develop joint projects and conduct mutually beneficial research, including making “water conservation and management” a top priority.

To that end, Israel recently joined forces with the state’s public and private sectors to share its wealth of experience and knowledge in a three-day road show. The Economic Mission to the West Coast and the Israel Ministry of Economy and Industry hosted a delegation of more than 20 Israeli water technology companies in California for the June 28-30 conference.

The event kicked off with a reception at the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator. This was followed the next day by the Israel-California Water Conference, bringing together key government leaders such as Karen Ross, secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture, and Felicia Marcus, who chairs the State Water Resources Control Board, along with over 150 water professionals to discuss and share best practices with the delegation of Israeli companies. The show wrapped up at the Leichtag Foundation in San Diego (a city at the forefront of water innovation in California) for additional discussions and B2B meetings.

Here is a snapshot of two Israeli companies in the delegation:

Amiad Water Systems is one of the world’s leading water filtration companies. The company provides a range of comprehensive filtration solutions to customers in more than 80 countries. It was founded at Kibbutz Amiad in 1962 and is traded on London’s stock exchange AIM.

NeoTop Water Systems has developed the TopUp Ball System, a modular cover for water reservoirs that works in harmony with the environment to prevent evaporation and reduce algae, among other benefits. The system is patent pending and won the Israeli Prime Minister’s Award for innovation in 2014 and was recently cited as one the leading innovative companies in Israel by Fast Company.

Many factors have led Israel — an arid, desert country with limited natural resources, including water — to be able to produce more water than it consumes. First and foremost is the country’s deeply rooted cultural belief in conservation. Israel currently reuses 86 percent of its wastewater (slated to reach 95 percent by 2025), using the processed water to serve the country’s significant agricultural sector. Government policy has also played a significant role, as Israel has only one main water regulatory body.


Startup of the month

Israel-based Taliaz Diagnostics just got back from BIO, the world’s largest biotech conference, held at San Francisco’s Moscone Center in June. Taliaz develops diagnostic tools to determine the best treatment for patients based on their genetic profile and clinical and demographic information, with a focus on minimizing adverse effects that often cause patients to stop taking prescribed treatments.


Exit of the month

Optitex, a privately held Israeli company, is being acquired by Electronics For Imaging (Nasdaq: EFII) for $52.8 million. Optitex is an emerging global leader in integrated 3D design software that allows companies to tap into the power of 3D to revolutionize the way they develop, produce and market fashion.

Gili Ovadia is the S.F.-based Israeli consul for economic affairs to the West Coast.