An Interview with SeeTree CEO, Israel Talpaz
We were fortunate to have Hillel Fuld come into our office and interview our CEO, Israel Talpaz on his tech vlog- especially considering we were still in stealth mode at the time of the interview. The interview was engaging and full of amazing insights on agtech, the future of agtech, and how SeeTree came to be. There’s also some fascinating background information on Israel’s renowned father, Hovav Talpaz.
Check out the interview below!
Are you not able to watch the video at the moment? No problem- we have you covered! We transcribed the dialogue between Hillel and Israel for you.
Just in case it isn’t already clear: H = Hillel, and I = Israel.
Enjoy, and stay tuned because in a few short weeks, Hillel will come back to interview our Chairman, Barak Hachamov!
Transcription of the interview between Hillel Fuld and Israel Talpaz
H: So I’ve had my fair share of impressive people on this video blog before, like some really impressive people but then there’s you, you’re like a whole different level. Alright, honestly like a whole different level. Alright now here’s the interesting thing- the interesting thing is I like to (for context) I like to start at the beginning. In your case we’re starting before the beginning, because we have to start talking about your father before we start talking about where we are, who you are, what’s this place… let’s talk about your father. Who is your father? What’s your father’s name?
I: My father’s name is Hovav Talpaz.
H: Okay which… you’ve never heard that name but millions- is it true to say- millions of people in the agriculture space sure know that name. Why?
I: Yeah well first of all he’s the kibbutznik and he’s an AG-economic expert, a professor in agricultural economics, a researcher in agriculture, and he’s developed optimization capabilities for numerous fields in agriculture known in the U.S. known in Israel known all over.
H: He is the Bill Gates of Agriculture.
I: Well I’d say in optimization for agriculture that’s true.
H: So as they say about the Apple not falling far from the tree…
H: Of course, you went into agriculture but before we talk about that, and I’m being very careful and we can always edit things out, is it fair to say- and this is the only thing I’m gonna say- that unlike every other interview I’ve ever done in this entire vlog for the past 300 episodes- we can’t actually talk about your experience. It’s okay to say that?
I: It’s ok to say. It’s a bit of a problem.
H: How much of a hotshot is he? You can’t even talk about his background that’s all I’m saying. Okay we’re allowed to say that? Yeah beautiful.
Alright enough said is all I’m saying. Alright so- SeeTree. Let’s start with- and you guys have heard me talk about this probably now a thousand times okay- and I’ve said this to you guys and Barak is sitting behind the camera you can’t see him but he’s the better-looking guy of the couple. But Barak, who have I talked about earlier today- we’ve known each other for many years. Serial entrepreneur. He’s gonna get on an interview 2.0. But now by the way, I just realized I’ve been talking about you for like five minutes. I didn’t even ask you your name. What’s your name?
I: Israel Talpaz.
H: Israel Talpaz. Okay so you’ve heard me say this a thousand times. Every one of the winners- every one of the winners in the tech space in the business world… they all have one thing in common. You look at Uber, you look at Facebook, you look at WeWork, you look at Airbnb- they all have a same thing in common. They took a space- they took a world that always existed. They leveraged the use of technology and they disrupted it, and they flipped it on its head and they revolutionized. It all big words that I hate when people when marketers use, but in this case it’s true Uber took transportation and said no longer yellow cabs we’re gonna use technology everybody. And by the way not only did they disrupt it, but they democratized that anybody can now be a, you know, a transportation facilitator. A driver, right? You look at communication. Once upon a time, you wanted to have influence, you needed a PhD in journalism, right? You write for the New York Times then people would listen. Today Facebook says ‘write a little status update’ you could influence millions of people, right? You look at Airbnb. Hospitality. Same story and it’s etc, and WeWork etc, etc. There are some industries that need the disruption more than others, yes. Communication needed to be disrupted. In transportation, it’s true, it’s all true. But there are some industries that are just… to say that they’re ripe for disruption is like a huge understatement. They are begging to be disrupted.
Agriculture is at the top of that list along with, by the way, insurance and other industries. But agriculture as a whole? There are many many companies in the space but as a whole right now, today, farmers, and you know the different… let’s call it components of the agriculture ecosystem are somewhat behaving like it’s 1970. Comes along SeeTree, what is SeeTree? What is the background? How did this come to be? And I know that this is a stealth company and you can’t talk about everything. And I know that you have incredible news coming soon in terms of again, I’m being careful you tell me if you want me to edit this out like I can in terms of who backed this company. Who are your partners? Incredible stuff coming for now. Whatever you can tell me. What is SeeTree? How did it come to be and what’s going on in this place?
I: Well SeeTree is a company that wants to revolutionize farming for trees. Permanent crop farming, meaning, taking the tree world of farming and bring it way up to — nowadays. Digitizing it and enabling the farmer to monitor and understand every single tree that he has
and optimize all of his really difficult job, and give him tools to better maximize his production and capabilities.
H: Okay, so now let’s dumb that down for us stupid people.
H: These farmers, you know if I need oxygen, they need their trees. It’s their oxygen right it’s their livelihood it’s everything these guys have thousands sometimes they-
I: Sometimes it’s like they’re (the trees) their children.
I: In a way
H: 100 percent and sometimes these farmers have thousands sometimes more than thousands-in these millions…
I: Millions. Now, today Pre-SeeTree what are they doing to know it? Example, you told me about you know… the bacteria right, tell me a little bit about that’s me we’ll talk about that in a second but it’s a very violent bacteria attacking their trees. How do they know? Will they know? And if yes, how do they monitor it? And tell me a little bit about that. Specific bacteria, and just in general the threats that these trees face.
Farmers today, as they did in the past, have to rely on their eyes and their feet to see what they can see in their groves. And if they don’t see that and if they don’t they’re not able to get there then they just won’t find out what’s happening there, right? Okay and technology hasn’t given them the tools up till now, to enable them to cover all of their trees and in a really accurate and efficient way. Okay so if they have, for instance a bacteria that affects their trees like in citrus, HLB, this bacteria, can…
H: Wipe out.
I: …wipe out their whole farm. In months and years it can wipe out the whole farm.
H: Which is that, which is their life basically. It’s done.
I: It’s their life because replacing a tree is really difficult takes five years to get the new replacement to start producing, so
H: Spreads, so in other words…
I: It’s contagious.
H: We’re talking about HIV of trees.
I: HIV you can call it. Some call it like a cancer of trees.
H: But cancer is not contagious, this is contagious.
I: That’s right, this is contagious. That’s right,
H: That’s why I said HIV.
I: But yeah it’s HIV no cure up till today.
H: Ok so I have a very simple question for you. I mean this is… this kind of sounds like how are you guys doing this? I mean how did no one else think of this? I mean okay, you say technology hasn’t enabled them to see the health alert- why not? I mean look at this thing right here. You know this is megapixels that I can, you know, capture. And you know look at these new phones and technology we have the optics, the lenses I’m gonna say the D word- the drones obviously we’ll talk about that in a second. Like the capabilities are there, so how is no one else to get this out yet?
I: Well, you need… its first of all it’s a really complex problem. And you need to bring into this world combination of different capabilities. It’s not just drones by themselves are not enough right? Cameras are not enough. Ground sensors are not enough. People are not enough you need a combination of all of these.
H: Interesting point.
I: Built as a campaign directed for these trees to enable a good enough, and really an accurate and a valuable product to help the farmer move ahead.
H: I want to emphasize one of the things you said that I think is fascinating and it obviously, it’s very much a core kind of pillar of this company which is the combination of incredibly advanced you know cutting-edge technology with the support of human interaction, yes now first of all, in terms of the challenges, I mean yes, you can capture that data but you still need to analyze that data.
H: An incredible amount of data, right?
H: That’s one and the second thing is at the end of the day you know as we talked about earlier today you need boots-on-the-ground, right? You cannot only use technology by the way, and that’s something I’m hearing a lot. We talk, everyone talks about, you know, is artificial intelligence gonna kill, you know, you. You need, at the end of the day, at least today you still need human, you know, involvement in many of these processes of, you know, yesterday. I was talking to a company that does background checks, the AI the algorithms can only get you a certain point you still need analysts, right here’s the same thing you have your professionals on the ground, but instead of going tree-by-tree using drones, using cameras, using optics you’re gathering that information using machine learning and big data to analyzing, you know, extract the most important information. And here’s the kicker, because the amount of information that you’re kind of extracting or consuming… your tech is endless, you need to then display that information to the farmer. Right now farmers are not interested in looking at some, you know, very advanced, you know, pie charts. You give him a dashboard so that’s the trick here.
I: There are a lot of tricks here, but all of these have to be combined together. And, you know, a farmer has a really difficult job. It’s a full-time job from before sunrise.
I: And after way after sunset, so he can’t he can’t return home and start working on graphs and right, and get inputs and start trying to analyzing them, and do all of the analytics here. We need to be able to do the analytics, crunch the numbers, process it, package it for them so they can see in a glimpse. In seconds, understand exactly where their problems are, what they need to do, and prioritize everything.
I: Very actionable very precise and and so they can do it the next day.
H: Love it. And I’m just gonna give an analogy, because I spoke about it before. Take Uber right? You have a car, go be a driver. But you need to manage the entire backend of what a taxi driver used to do, and I would be like get out of my face am I interested but whoever says “No no no” will give me the entire infrastructure, get in your car and drive.
H: Right, SeeTree’s doing that. You’re Uberizing the farming world.
I: Yep that’s a good analogy, yes.
H: Okay so like I said you guys are stealth you’re not launched yet. I’m not gonna drive you to any web site, it’s early. But in the next couple of months, let’s call it to a half a year, whoever you are, and wherever you are in the world, you’re going to be hearing about SeeTree not only because of what the product is doing, the vision, and the mission of this company, but because of the partners the scale. The partners and the backers of this company, which are just by the way both in terms of quantity in terms of money, but also in terms of quality incredible people. I mean bottom line is, I’m, you know I’m thankful to Barak who’s not in this interview right now, but will be next time for introducing us because I’m learning. I knew nothing and now I’m a little bit, a little bit knowledgeable, but I’m you know, a fraction, but I’m looking forward to, you know, helping in any way I can, and watching this company explode.
I: Thank you very much.
H: Good luck with everything.
I: I appreciate everything.