Meet the researcher and entrepreneur helping the world’s growers on their sustainability journey

DriftSense offers the first pesticide-driven strategy for farmers, leveraging advanced data science to calculate the comprehensive range of factors impacting spray results while optimizing pesticide drift and spraying applications in farming areas. CEO and co-founder of DriftSense, Dr. Elad Segal holds a Ph.D. in Materials Science from Bar-Ilan University and is a researcher in the field of Chemistry and analysis of environmental pollutants. He and his team, Dr. Ran Shauli (COO) and Dr. Pavel Kunin (CTO), help growers precisely control their spraying application by eliminating drift issues and maximizing on-target spraying. Recently, Elad sat down with Start-Up Nation Central for an interview about spraying cost efficiency and sustainability.

“75% of sprayed material does not reach the target, which is a huge financial toll for growers and damaging to the crops and environment.”

Start-Up Nation Central: Tell us about DriftSense and your mission

Elad: DriftSense is the first science-based prediction tool for growers, that tells them exactly when and where to apply pesticides. This technology achieves optimal spraying precision so growers can stop shooting in the dark and generate cost savings. Drifsense’s technology analyzes not only all relevant meteorological data but also the chemical properties and regulatory data pertaining to the particular types of pesticides the grower uses, as well as their specific spraying gear and its implications for dispersion.   

Start-Up Nation Central: Is spraying pesticide that problematic?

Elad: Today, 75% of sprayed material does not reach the target, which is a huge financial toll for growers and also harms the crops and environment. Growers are at the mercy of “mother nature,” and even a slight change in a given spraying event situation can damage the production capacity for years.  

Presenting DriftSense at a showcase event at Bar-Ilan University

Start-Up Nation Central: Growers just accept that loss?

Elad: Only because they have no other choice. But spraying pesticides must become more accurate. Think about bacteria and antibiotics: doctors give prescriptions precisely – not less, not more, because they know that bacteria might develop resistance. Pesticides require the same precision, and that’s the challenge we’re solving. DriftSense looks at the whole package: the atmospheric conditions, the mix of chemicals, and how and when the chemicals are being sprayed. We implement everything for optimal spraying time. 

Start-Up Nation Central: Before DriftSense, you were a researcher. What made you decide to take your work from the lab to the field and become an entrepreneur? 

Elad: I met my COO, Dr. Ran Shauli, in 2019 during the last year of my Ph.D. We met in Bar-Ilan University’s entrepreneurship program, UnBox, which helps develop scientific and research-based startup companies. I was very interested in Applied Chemistry, especially in pesticides and agricultural chemistry. I fell in love with a lot of things that we do as researchers, but that all really stemmed from a deep-rooted love of real-world problem-solving. I was attracted to entrepreneurship by a desire to make people’s lives easier by solving their problems, backed by science.

One day, Ran and I were brainstorming about what problems we could solve with our backgrounds, and we discussed the prevalence of pesticide drift – a problem that exists not just in Israel but across the world. Three months later, with tens of meetings booked on our calendars, we decided to buy tickets to California, and we were on a plane by the end of the week. 

Start-Up Nation Central: What was the next big step in turning this into a business?

Elad: When we went out to California, saw the issue for ourselves, and sized up exactly how big the problem is, we realized we needed additional expertise. So we onboarded our CTO, Dr. Pavel Kunin, who holds a Ph.D. in Geophysics and Atmospherical Science. Pavel was the missing link we needed as he perfectly complements the chemistry that Ran and I bring to the table.

Presenting DriftSense at a showcase event at Bar-Ilan University

“I was attracted to entrepreneurship by a desire to make people’s lives easier by solving their problems, backed by science.”

Start-Up Nation Central: What is the biggest challenge facing growers?

Elad: Across the board, growers want to be more sustainable and cost-efficient. The climate is difficult, and the weather is turbulent, preventing people from producing at the same rates, even if they are in the same regions.

Start-Up Nation Central: How did you come up with your solution for this challenge?

Elad: We’re a Software as a Service business, but our customers aren’t all sitting behind computers. Our best days are when we’re on the ground talking to people with a vested interest in solving this problem, driving 600 miles to meet all these various stakeholders physically in the fields of California and the Midwest. We’ve met more than 250 stakeholders, including agrochemical companies, growers, contractors, NGOs, and universities.  

We have found that the best way to collaborate is to communicate; our clients have similar needs, but they are expressed in different ways. We needed to understand the problem fully and from every angle before even attempting to solve something so vastly impactful and complex. 

Start-Up Nation Central: What does success look like for DriftSense?

Elad: If people use this solution, we will have helped humanity and done something good for the planet and the future of agriculture. That’s success.

Start-Up Nation Central: What do you need to get there? 

Elad: As an early-stage startup, funding is a dominant part of it. Additionally,  speaking to the right experts in this domain is the most important thing in sustaining a viable business, and transforming ideas into reality, in my opinion. I am focused on surrounding myself with key opinion leaders and experts.

The DriftSense team meeting growers in Northern Israel vineyards

 “Our best days are when we’re boots on the ground talking to people with a vested interest in solving this problem, driving 600 miles to meet all these various stakeholders physically in the field.”

Start-Up Nation Central: What do you think investors and corporate executives around the world should know about Israelis?

Elad: Israeli entrepreneurs are a unique brand of human material. Israeli people are innovative, bold, and have out-of-the-box perspectives. We are not afraid to go all-in when we have the opportunity, not just in high-tech but across industries. We might come across as rude or overwhelming, but that’s just our passion.

The DriftSense team meeting Californian growers in Central Valley.

Start-Up Nation Central: Can you give some advice for other entrepreneurs?

Elad:  Learn and adapt, let go of your ego! Entrepreneurial roles are a roller coaster at the end of the day. I would recommend that every entrepreneur going through down times disconnect from the environment for a day, relax, and then focus on transforming the lows. Ask yourself the question: how can I make things better? Write down three quick and concrete steps. That immediately takes focus away from melancholy and onto problem-solving, which is what entrepreneurs love to do.

Start-Up Nation Central: Can you recommend a fun activity to do in Israel to our global audience?

Elad: I like going to a special spot in the central region of Israel, in Hod Hasharon. There’s an ecological park with huge lawns, a lovely lake, small hills, and bicycle tracks with great views. I love going there with my family.

Learn more about DriftSense on Start-Up Nation Finder.

Phillip Stark is the Marketing Manager for Start-Up Nation Finder at Start-Up Nation Central. Finder is provided courtesy of Start-Up Nation Central, a non-profit organization that strengthens Israel’s innovation ecosystem and connects it to global challenges and stakeholders.

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