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From Otaf to Dubai

High-tech companies from the surrounding area will represent Israel at the UN's global climate conference, which opened this week in the United Arab Emirates. Their managers talk about the professional and personal difficulties of the companies and their employees these days - and also about the importance of traveling to the main international event, despite everything

By Racheli Vox, Angle - a news agency for science and the environment

All 30 employees of the UBQ company live in the south, many of them in the surrounding settlements. Photo: UBQ Materials
All 30 employees of the UBQ company live in the south, many of them in the surrounding settlements. Photo: UBQ Materials

On the flight that left Israel for Dubai, the environmental high-tech people from Otaf sat with their heads held high. The October 7 attack also hit the industry The clitech and the cleantech The industry that grew in Otef and the Negev: workers were murdered, and the friends of workers were kidnapped, murdered and injured. As in the rest of the country, in these companies as well, many of the critical employees are contributing in reserves at the moment. These days, with the opening of the UN's global climate conference (COP28) in the United Arab Emirates - Israel's representatives there are the stratapists and hi-techists from the south. Their message to Israel and the world in their talks with us is very clear: keep going, and keep succeeding.

The climate conferences of the United Nations Held every year since 1995, with the aim of bringing together government officials and representatives from around the world to discuss steps to combat the climate crisis, and are the largest international event of the United Nations. In 2015 it was signed at the conference Paris Agreement, which is designed to limit the increase in global temperatures to less than 2 degrees Celsius by 2050 (with the goal of limiting it further, to 1.5 degrees Celsius by the end of the century), and to which nearly 200 countries in the world (including Israel) have committed.

Originally, the Israeli delegation to the climate conference, which opened on Thursday and will continue until December 12, was supposed to be the largest of all the countries of the world and include No less than 1,000 people, including the Prime Minister, the President of the State, at least 11 ministers, a wide delegation of commercial companies (including industrialists and representatives of oil and gas companies) and dozens of civil servants and associates, for which the establishment of an Israeli pavilion at a cost of approximately NIS 9 million was approved. This led to a lot of criticism, according to which the Israeli delegation is ostentatious - but the environmental action in the various government ministries is little. However, in light of the war the expedition has been reduced in a very significant way, and it will mainly include a number of representatives of Israeli high-tech environmental companies from the surrounding area (as well as the country's president, Yitzhak Herzog, who joined the delegation at the last minute for a short visit and is expected to talk with world leaders about the atrocities committed by Hamas).

"The participation of Israeli start-up companies in the field of climate that come from the Gaza Strip in the climate conference in Dubai is very important to us," explains Ambassador Gideon Bachar, the special envoy for climate change and sustainability at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. "Despite the severe damage they suffered, they continue to produce applicable and meaningful solutions for the benefit of the fight against the climate crisis and humanity as a whole. We are happy that we were given the privilege to assist in their arrival at the conference and to reveal their innovative developments in the Israeli pavilion under the leadership of the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Environmental Protection, something that strengthens the Israeli economy and places Israel at the forefront of global climate innovation."

Camelot: The greenhouse's CEO fought terrorists, her partner fell in the battles

On October 7, the offices of Camelot technological innovation that in the Shaar HaNegev industrial area there were disturbances and battles at the heart of the area. CEO of the technological incubator SouthUp To which the company belongs, Brigadier General (Ret.) Gil Schwartzman, went out with his gun during the surprise attack and fought the terrorists. Another partner in the greenhouse and one of its founders was Ofir Liebstein, head of the Shaar Hanegev regional council, who was killed in the fighting in Kfar Gaza. "One of our employees, who lives in Otef just meters from the fence, luckily wasn't at home that terrible morning," says Eitan Davidov, VP of Operations and one of the founders of Camelot.

Camelot's product (AGIL) produces artificial intelligence models for predicting renewable energy production, with an emphasis on solar energy. It predicts the amount of energy that can be produced at any given moment, with a very high level of accuracy (over 90 percent), and manages the system of the solar field, partly in accordance with the supply contracts: if, for example, a shortage is expected at a certain time, the system knows how to tell the operators what settings to set for The operation of the solar panels and how much energy must be stored so that the required amount can be supplied.

"More than half of our company is in Order 8, including the CEO and the CTO (chief technology officer, RO)," says Davidov. According to him, he himself also tried to volunteer for reserve service in his position in the Air Force, even though he is 45 years old and was released from service last year. "I called my unit, and I received an amazing answer: there are not enough chairs for everyone who came to volunteer," he says.

Those team members who are currently working do so from home, of course. "Right now the company is simply surviving - we have a programmer and a half who maintain the product", says Davidov. However, according to him, they are far from stopping. "Just in the last few days we received a message that the Innovation Authority is extending our program."

According to Davidov, the company's product is very relevant to the United Arab Emirates. "This is a product that loves the sun - and it's a sunny area," he says. According to him, today the Emirates region does not exhaust its solar potential - and their development can help with this, and advise entrepreneurs where to establish solar fields and how, based on the layers of information it provides.

In Davidov's eyes, the company's presence at the international conference conveys a message to the world. "This is an opportunity to come and broadcast that we have been through a tragedy, as a nation and as a country, but we are not endangering: the Jewish and Israeli people are full of tragedies - and full of resurrection, and we are here because we rise and continue," he says.

UBQ: A company that paid an unbearable price

A company whose team suffered a severe blow On October 7 she UBQ Materials, whose factory is located in Kibbutz Tzalim. Two of its employees were murdered in the surprise attack in Kfar Gaza: Hadar Berdichevsky, the plant's accountant, who was murdered with her husband in their home, and Uri Russo, the director of maintenance and engineering, who was part of the settlement's emergency squad. Other workers have lost relatives, know well those injured, murdered or kidnapped or survived the inferno themselves. All 30 employees of the factory live in the south, many of them in the surrounding settlements. In a coincidence that only reality can come up with, shortly after the surprise attack, UBQ's technology was selected for the list The best inventions of 2023 of TIME magazine.

The UBQ company produces Environmentally friendly plastic substitute For industrial use - from household waste. The company's technology is able to deal with waste of any kind and turn it into the plastic-like raw material, which can be found today, among other things, in Mercedes vehicles, in McDonald's food trays and in the boxes and display shelves of the PepsiCo food and beverage corporation.

The company's activity at the climate conference is expected to focus on creating international collaborations, with government officials and other stakeholders. "These days we are setting up a factory in the Netherlands, and we are targeting the European and American markets," says Gali Feldboi Klinger, global sustainability manager at UBQ.

"Like everyone else, we are concerned about the trip - both security-wise, but also because we all feel disappointed by the UN, especially due to the lack of condemnation of the events in Israel by the women's organizations and the fact that not a word was said about our children on the UN's International Children's Day," Feldboy says Klinger. "These issues are very charged and our emotions are very mixed. On the other hand, the workers from Otaf encourage us to travel a lot - and for us it is a mission to travel right now." According to her, the factory workers, imbued with the target, reopened the factory already a few days after the surprise attack. "It is important for us to show that despite everything that happened - we are there."

Emnotion: "The climate issue crosses opinions and wars"

Company Emnotion, located in Berhat, was less affected by the war than other companies. "We mainly feel the mental state, which is shared by many people now," says Ilya Shapira, CEO and co-founder of Amanushan. "We moved to work from home, but out of the company's 10 employees, only one is recruited, we are all adults - I am 45 and the youngest in the company."

Israel has something to offer in the field of climate." Credit: Emnotion
Israel has something to offer in the field of climate." Credit: Emnotion

Humanity develops advanced weather and climate forecasting models that focus on climatic risks. This with the help of tools such as big data analysis, machine learning, artificial intelligence and principles from the world of quantum mechanics. The company belongs to the hothouse InNegev of the Innovation Authority.

"We had doubts about whether to join the delegation, both in light of the security situation and because it means leaving a family behind here in Israel at this time - but it's only for a few days and we'll hope for the best, and it's a privilege to be part of the delegation," says Shapira. "We have the opportunity to add some weight to the fact that Israel has something to offer in the climate field - and to be proud of the fact that we have developed a climate model that is purely Israeli."

Shapira also hopes to establish contacts with officials in the United Arab Emirates at the conference, as well as in other countries in the world. "The climate issue cuts across opinions and wars - it unites, it is a common denominator that is relevant to everyone," he says. "We work in Muslim countries, and continue to work and sign new deals. When the war ends - the climate issue will not go anywhere, it is there and it will be there, and it is important to continue this action."

AKOLogic: "We are heroic people"

Company members AKOLogic, which operates from Kibbutz Boror Ha'il, reports on different reactions to the situation in Israel from business entities abroad. "Some people show compassion and understand, some are just ignorant - and some are also anti-Semitic," says Assaf Dotan, VP of Operations, Innovation and Business Development at the company.

AKOLogic is a cloud computing platform for farmers. It allows its users to manage and monitor all aspects of agricultural growth, the collaborations that take place, the risks to the produce, the relevant geographic information and more. Among other things, the system helps farmers reduce their carbon footprint, and encourages them to increase the variety of their crops in order to absorb a greater amount of carbon from the atmosphere (and thus also be part of the global market of Trading in carbon emission permits).

"We are heroic people - farmers, soil workers", says Dotan, who did not hesitate much whether to go to the conference. "I see no need to stop life and stop. On the contrary - you have to continue with all your might. I've been traveling the world for many years, and I see that a tremendous miracle has been created in Israel in the fields of agriculture and climate, using technologies that we export all over the world - and we're not going anywhere."

According to him, they are also aimed at creating partnerships with companies from the United Arab Emirates. "The people of the Emirates took it upon themselves to produce interstate strategic agreements, some of which include agriculture," he says. "We want to computerize their farms into an advanced platform."

According to Dotan, they are always required to provide Israeli information in meetings with international parties. "People who live in tropical countries or in countries that do not recognize deserts always marvel at the agriculture in the Negev and the Israeli desert, and are always intrigued as to how we manage to grow crops in the desert when they fail to do so in the gardens of Eden that surround them," he says. "The Israelis are leaders in many fields in agriculture - whether it's water, seeds, varieties, fertilizers or systems. Our corner has been a land of milk and honey for thousands of years, we were able to produce a progressive language in the special environment - and we need to keep it."

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