The Hon Jaala Pulford MP - travel report - Canada and Israel, 12-23 July 2017

Minister The Hon Jaala Pulford MP
Portfolio Minister for Agriculture
Minister for Regional Development
Countries visited Canada and Israel
Date of travel 12 to 23 July 2017
No. of official travel days
(including day of departure and day of return)
Number of accompanying ministerial staff 1
Accompanied by spouse in an official capacity No
Funding for the overseas trip was paid by (list department/s or agency) Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources
Air fares (including taxes and fees) $44,099*
Accommodation (including taxes and fees) $10,314*
Other expenses (includes surface travel and travel allowances) $9,716*
Travel cost for minister and staff $64,129*

*The above costs are not final and complete

Purpose of travel 

The purpose of my travel to Canada and Israel was to investigate leading approaches to medicinal cannabis, agricultural technology development and adoption, regional economic transition and government administration of the regional development and agriculture portfolios.

Benefits of travel to the State of Victoria

Victoria is establishing a medicinal cannabis industry. My visit to the mature medicinal cannabis industries of Canada and Israel gave information on licensing and commercial arrangements to grow, manufacture and sell (includes exporting) cannabis products. The benefits of research and development with clinical trials on ailments such as autism, epilepsy, psoriasis and tinnitus showing positive results were demonstrated.

Israel's agricultural research and development program has led to dramatic increases in the quantity and quality of the country's agriculture production. Notable innovations include drip technology irrigation, long-life cherry tomatoes and citrus cultivation in the desert. The visit provided insight into the pathways government, universities and AgTech companies and start-ups use to develop and commercialise agriculture technologies.

Canada's federal government provides funding support to regional development agencies (RDAs) which effectively operate at the state level. This provided a different perspective on the role RDAs play in supporting innovation, disaster response and economic transition to Regional Development Victoria.

Medicinal cannabis

I met with six Canadian and three Israeli companies involved in activities across the medicinal cannabis supply chain. These include cultivation, manufacture, research and development (R&D), and distribution of medicinal cannabis products. The objective of these meetings was to understand their business operations, identify opportunities to collaborate on R&D, and promote Victoria as a destination for investment.

Discussions emphasised the importance of development and delivery of medical practitioner education programs in uptake of medicinal cannabis by the medical profession and patients.

I met with Health Canada and the Vice Chair of the Cannabis Task Force to understand the current status of Canada's medicinal cannabis regulation and industry. A key learning was the challenge of allocating sufficient resources to government for efficient regulation to support industry development and access to medicinal cannabis for approved patients.

My meeting with senior staff from the Multidisciplinary Center on Cannabinoid Research (the Center) and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem led to development of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the Center and Victorian Government. This will guide future collaboration on medicinal cannabis R&D.

Agriculture technology development and adoption - Israel

The Israel Innovation Authority is responsible for developing industrial R&D within Israel and manages several international partnership agreements. My meeting with the Office of the Chief Scientist explored the authority's funding model for start-ups and high risk projects.

I met with Hebrew University of Jerusalem's Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment's technology transfer company, Yissum. The purpose of the meeting was to gain insights into agriculture research and adoption, including commercialisation and intellectual property arrangements for the university's products and services. The potential for a joint project on wheat production, focusing on double growing seasons and using wild wheat to improve germplasm was discussed.

My meeting with AgriTask, an Israeli AgTech company was very successful culminating in an MoU between Agriculture Victoria and AgriTask to adapt their business intelligence and decision support platform for Australia. The platform helps farmers optimise yields, reduce inputs, mitigate risks, and benchmark farm areas. I announced the signing of the MoU in a media release on 20 July 2017.

I met with The Floor, a FinTech (financial technology) co-working hub, and venture capital and private equity firms, GreenSoil Investments and AgriNation. These meetings highlighted the resilience needed by start-ups and innovators to keep adapting their products to secure a market for their business.

My meeting with Netafim, an Israeli pioneer of drip and micro-irrigation products for agriculture, explored opportunities for the company to continue its investment in Victoria. The meeting cemented Victoria's relationship with the company.

I met with the Agricultural Research Organisation, Volcani - the largest agricultural research institute in Israel. Their work in developing medicinal cannabis strains has some potential for a joint project with Agriculture Victoria in the future.

Regional economic transition

I met with the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario) to discuss the agency's approach to regional development, focussing on initiatives transitioning regional economies. FedDev Ontario's strong emphasis on industry development (in particular advanced manufacturing), innovation (e.g. the application of new technologies and skills development) and entrepreneurship contrasts with Regional Development Victoria's mix of economic and social infrastructure development.

Agriculture and Regional development portfolios

I met with Mr Yuval Rotem, Director General of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs and former Israeli Ambassador to Australia to progress the Victorian Government's agreement with the Australia Israel Chamber of Commerce. This agreement is expected to deliver in-market and on ground support for the Victorian Government in Israel.

I met with the Israeli Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and discussed the Israeli Government's activities to support agriculture and regional development.

Next Steps / Follow Up

Deliver the MoU with AgriTask to develop a business intelligence and decision support platform for Australian farmers.

Complete and deliver the MoU with the Multidisciplinary Center on Cannabinoid Research to guide future collaboration on medicinal cannabis R&D.

Continue to progress the Victorian Government's agreement with the Australia Israel Chamber of Commerce.

Page last updated: 17 April 2018