A look back at some of Startup Nation’s “wow” technology
Farewell to 2022. Many in Israel’s (shrinking) hi-tech sector would rather forget a year that saw such a sharp drop in investment and such a staggering loss of jobs.
The global financial crisis, the war in Ukraine and the lingering after-effects of Covid have all conspired against the country’s 7,000-plus startups.
The hi-tech sector, which accounts for over 40 per cent of the country’s total exports, employed 30,000 people at the start of 2021. That figure’s now down to around 23,500, a drop of over a fifth.
Startups raised $13.9 billion in 2022, down more than 45 per cent on the previous year’s record of $25.8 billion, according to Vintage Investment Partners.
And the value of of acquisitions and IPOs (initial public offering or stock launch) plunged 80 per cent from $82.5 billion in 2021 to just $16.9 billion in 2022, according to PwC Israel.
But we’re looking forward to a change in fortunes as we welcome 2023. And we’re taking a moment to reflect on some of the best moments of 2022.
Here, in no particular order, is our Top 10 of the “wow” technologies we covered during the year:
Israel flies world’s first all-electric airplane
Israel made history in September 2022 with the world’s first all-electric passenger aircraft flight, heralding a new era of cheaper, cleaner and more sustainable air travel.
Eviation’s nine-seater plane, called Alice, made a successful eight-minute flight at Moses Lake, Washington, USA, reaching an altitude of 3,500ft.
Electric flights will mean huge savings for airlines – $200 per flying hour, compared with as much as $2,000 for a fuel-powered plane.
The company, founded in Kadima Zoran, central Israel, in 2015, hopes to launch the plane for short-hop commercial flights in the USA in 2027.
Miracle de-printer wipes words off the page
A breakthrough in laser technology literally wipes the words off a printed page, restoring the paper to blank, again and again and again.
“People don’t believe it. Even when they’ve seen it they don’t believe it,” said inventor Barak Yekutiely, of Reep Technologies.
His de-printer removes every last trace of ink – black or color – leaving the paper pristine white again, and even recovering the ink so it can be reused.
Ultimately every office could have a printer and a de-printer sitting side-by-side, ready to recycle its paper, he says.
The amazing stand-up wheelchair
Dr Amit Goffer, a veteran inventor and entrepreneur, is standing on his own two feet again after developing the world’s first stand-up wheelchair.
He says his wife cried when she first saw him using the UpnRide after breaking his neck driving an ATV (all-terrain vehicle) in 1997.
It’s like a super-stable version of the Segway that can raise the user from sitting to a standing position, and back again, with no outside help.
No other device allows the user to travel in the standing position. The UpnRide can travel at 4km per hour, over slopes and bumps, grass and gravel, and tackle pretty much any urban environment.
Dr Goffer says it’s as important to address issues of dignity and self-esteem – the ability to interact with people face-to-face – as it is to enhance mobility.
Making milk from lettuce
Lettuce has been genetically modified to produce a milk substitute.
Unlike soy, almond, oat, coconut, rice, or cashew, it contains casein, the ingredient that means it can be made into cheese with a ‘real’ dairy texture. Ordinary lettuce contains no casein at all.
Pigmentum, a startup based in Kiryat Shmona, northern Israel, plants GM lettuce in hi-tech greenhouses, cultivates it with special fertilizers and harvests the crop when it’s ready, a little over three weeks later.
It then squeezes out the juice – over 90 per cent of lettuce is liquid – adds natural ingredients to give it a milk-like taste and smell, and has a product which is ready to drink, pour on your breakfast cereal or add to your coffee.
The flying fruit pickers
A fleet of flying robots are picking fruit. They hover next to the tree, pluck an apple, peach or nectarine with a gentle twist of their suction arms and carefully deposit them in a collection bin.
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They are fitted with cameras that assess the exact size and color of each piece of fruit and only pick what’s perfectly ripe.
Tevel Aerobotics Technologies, an Israeli startup, has developed the world’s only flying autonomous robots (FARs) that pick fruit.
They’re easing a labor crisis that threatens the world’s fruit farmers and which means an estimated 10 per cent of all fruit globally is left to rot on the tree.
Wristband operates any phone or laptop
A wristband allows people who can’t use their hands to operate any phone, laptop, or tablet.
It translates movements into commands for any paired Bluetooth device, replacing the swipe of a finger on a touch screen, the tap on a keyboard and the click of a mouse.
The company behind the device, Tel Aviv-based 6Degrees, aims to give people with disabilities full access to technology.
Its MyMove device works even for people with tremors. It can be worn on the wrist, the upper arm or upper leg – wherever the user has motion – and adapts to any form of movement after just 10 minutes of calibration.
Air conditioner powered by liquid nitrogen
An Israeli company has developed the world’s first outdoor air conditioner that works without electricity.
The revolutionary Kensho blows out a gentle jet of freezing nitrogen gas at -10C (14F).
Liquid nitrogen is widely used as a coolant in many industries. Green Kinoko, the company behind the invention, says it adapted “textbook physics” to develop a patented system with it to cool the outside air.
“Our technology solves many environmental challenges such as greenhouse gas emissions, electricity consumption, noise, and humidity creation,” said CEO Tal Leizer.
Smartphone listens out for heart failure
Heart patients can now record themselves speaking into a smartphone for 45 seconds a day so that AI can diagnose problems.
A super-sensitive algorithm developed by Israel-based Cordio Medical analyzes their voice for tiny changes that no human ear could pick up, as an early warning of fluid building up within the heart and lungs.
The app, called HearO, can warn of impending danger 18 days before the patient feels any symptoms.
That gives their doctors the chance to double the dose of diuretics – medication that lowers blood pressure – for a few days and avoid the trauma of a stay in the hospital.
Soundwaves turn boy chicks into girls
Sound vibrations are being used to turn “worthless” male chicks into females before they hatch.
Half of the 15 billion chicks produced every year across the world are slaughtered at birth because they’ll never lay eggs.
Trays fitted with speakers cause the eggs to vibrate during their three-week incubation, increasing the female percentage from 50 to as much as 80.
The company’s Co-founder Nashat Haj Mohammad raised chickens in his backyard and noticed a higher proportion of female chicks hatching when he moved the coop near a utility pole.
He embarked on five years of research to understand the phenomenon and turn it into a commercial reality.
Psychedelic nasal sprays for PTSD sufferers
A nasal spray containing psychedelic drugs is being used to treat patients suffering PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).
Madrigal Mental Care, an Israeli biopharma company, uses an advanced nanotechnology-based system to deliver drugs like psilocybin, the active ingredient in magic mushrooms, as well as ketamine, mescaline, MDMA (ecstasy), and others.
Researchers developed an accurate and effective way to give patients the correct dose of molecules to ease their symptoms.