ICL Group, a leading global specialty minerals company, has announced its agriFood innovation and investment platform, ICL Planet Startup Hub, has led an investment round in Agrematch, an artificial intelligence (AI) agriTechstartup. The two companies agreed to launch a joint, multiyear programme to use Agrematch’s AI system for the discovery of novel crop nutrition solutions, to bring innovative products to ICL’s global offerings.

Founded in 2017, by experienced entrepreneurs and industry veterans, Agrematch has been developing and refining its unique AI4AI – Artificial Intelligence for Active Ingredients platform ever since. ICL Growing Solutions, the agriculture division of ICL, is partnering with Agrematch as a strategic investment designed to be complementary to, and synergistic with, its long-term growth plans. The Agrematch platform is expected to produce proprietary compounds developed as unique biostimulants and plant nutrition products, ultimately optimising overall plant and soil health and maximising plant yield, quality and resilience.

In recent years, AI has emerged as a key technology in discovering and developing innovative compounds, most frequently in drug discovery. According to an April 2022 study by Insider Intelligence, pharmaceutical companies have been saving nearly 70% of their discovery costs by using AI. This new method has the potential to eliminate up to five years of the average seven-year time frame for bringing a candidate compound to trial.

“ICL’s partnership with Agrematch brings the rapidly evolving application of AI into ICL’s agricultural development ecosystem,” noted Hadar Sutovsky, vice president of External Innovation and general manager of ICL Planet Startup Hub. “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.”

Mission Critical
Despite the urgent need for new sustainable crop nutrition products, the current discovery process is unable to meet demand. The prohibitively risky, costly and lengthy product development cycle – coupled with increasing regulatory requirements calling for sustainable products with a lower environmental footprint – has led to a reduction in the number of new product introductions. A faster and more efficient methodology, to identify new active ingredients for use in the development of ag products, is vital.

“We are excited to partner with ICL and explore new solutions for plant nutrition,” said Eyal Ben-Chanoch, CEO of Agrematch. “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.”