We’re pleased to spotlight Elisha Rubin, Executive Chairman and Founder of Agri-Light. Agri-Light is a consistent participant of Pears Program's IsraelDev 360 Connect Platform, which they have utilized to expand their connections for their upcoming pilot in Kenya.
What is Agri-Light’s story? In March of 2020, I was sitting in my office in Har Hotzvim, Jerusalem’s Hi-Tech Park, as the Corona virus was hitting countries and their populations all over the world. It was a bad time for business; and, of course, a sad time for humanity as more and more people became sick. During this difficult time, I was letting my mind work and wander contemplating my next technology and business steps. At this exact juncture, a large Italian energy company sent out a communication about a subject I knew nothing about---“Agrivoltaics”—the dual sharing of land for both energy generation via solar panels; and crop cultivation within the photovoltaic setting. I was intrigued about agrivoltaics, as a person passionate about agriculture and clean energy. I am a “gentleman farmer” living on a Moshav for the past 26 years. I spent about two months researching the subject and I decided to begin the process of establishing a company focused on bringing the most advanced agrivoltaic technology to the world. I was fortunate to recruit an experienced team led by experienced entrepreneurs and experts in the fields of renewable energy, data science, sustainability and environment, agronomy, economics, IoT, optimization and regulations. Tell us about your technology! Agri-Light has designed and developed its patent pending “Smart Agri-PV” (SAPV) System, which moves PV panels both horizontally and angularly to control plant sunlight and shading and optimize crop cultivation and electricity generation. The innovative technology is based on a unique mechanical engineering design and state-of-the art agronomic data analytics. The system employs IoT sensors to measure micro-environmental and environmental factors in real time, including sun radiation and position, temperature, humidity, pressure, rain, wind speed, and soil moisture. The data collected by the sensors is processed by an Artificial Intelligence-based cloud platform which also incorporates database information on the optimal environmental conditions for each crop type. Innovative algorithms generate information about electricity generation and give instructions to a software-based controller which moves the PV panels to maintain the micro-environmental factors in their optimal values. SAPV will also be used to activate and optimize irrigation in the most water efficient way possible. Agri-Light is developing a real time application that will provide both needed information to farmers and machine learning-based predictions that can help to optimize crop quality and production. The SAPV system is focused on fruit and nut tree crop production optimization and is suitable for all environments - including for arid/desert settings. By optimizing production of electricity and agricultural output on the same land, our technologies reduce competition for land use, while maximizing total profits for both farmers and solar developers.
How did you first target emerging markets? From the beginning of Agri-Light’s journey it was clear that our aim was to build a sustainable and profitable company, but at the same time, an enterprise that would make a significant impact in promoting food, water, and energy security. We therefore knew that emerging markets would be an important focus of ours. As a young company we first established a working demonstration site for our Smart Agri-PV funded by the Ministry of Energy. From there we won a tender to establish 12 commercial pilots of approximately 10 dunam each to be established on a range of different fruit and nut orchards spanning from the arid environment of the Arava to Israel’s northern Mediterranean borders. However, from almost the beginning of Agri-Light, we have been in contact with interested parties in Africa, including established representatives in Kenya who have become loyal partners for us. We are now in negotiation to establish our SAPV system on a 13.5-hectare site 60 Kilometers outside of Nairobi. Agri-Light also received an additional grant from the Ministry of Energy to initiate a pilot around a Bedouin village in the Negev. Our goal is to establish partnerships throughout the Middle East and Africa, as these emerging markets can derive great benefit from Agri-Light’s agrivoltaic technology solutions. Why is your technology beneficial to developing countries? Farmers worldwide are struggling to make a living as climate change and economic factors make agriculture business challenging. This is most certainly the case in emerging markets such as Sub-Saharan Africa. Agri-Light’s innovative agrivoltaic solutions will allow farmers to both optimize their crop production, their management and efficiency of water, and to partake in the additional revenue that will come from generating electricity.
Agri-Light's business model for farmers in developing countries can be offered as a joint partnership: the farmer provides his land for the agrivoltaic installation and shares the profits of electricity generated and sales to the national grid; or the farmer can receive electricity for his own use at a discounted price (off-grid). Most importantly, Agri-Light's agrivoltaic system benefits farmers’ crop production and water management, positively affecting agriculture profitability.
Where do you see Agri-Light in the future? In the near future, Agri-Light hopes to establish its first projects in Kenya where we have invested much time into building appropriate relationships and contacts within the country. We hope in the coming years to bring market expansion to other areas of East Africa and other regions of this vast continent, as well. Additionally, I envision Agri-Light establishing “strategic” commercial pilot projects in high potential markets (such as Europe, USA, and Israel) as the agrivoltaic market continues to emerge. We aim for Agri-Light to become a technology and business leader in this space, setting us up a strong, sustainable foundation for further growth and profitability. Specifically for Africa, as well as Israel, is the vision to establish self-sustaining agri-energy communities that bring economic stability to them; and promote food, water, and energy security.