Makabi Agritech

Makabi Agritech

Microcapsule for sustainable agricultural production

Makabi Agritech

The Croatian start-up Makabi has created a 3-in-1 encapsulation technology for plant protection, nutrition and controlled release of bioactive components. With their innovative approach in green chemistry and sustainable agricultural production, Makabi contributes to the reduction of environmental pollution, mitigates climate crisis, and increases the biopotential of produced food. For these reasons, Makabi Agritech won the “Special Impact” Award of the ISC3 Innovation Challenge 2023 and was chosen as the ISC3 start-up of the month for November 2023.

Year of Foundation:


Addresses the following SDGs:

SDG 2 (zero hunger), SDG 12 (responsible consumption and production), SDG 13 (life on land)


four people, some in lab coats, in lab, looking at camera, smiling. One of them is Founder Marko Vincekovic
Founder Marko Vincekovic and team in the lab
hands are scooping up a gel like product from a box with a spoon. It will probably be put onto the soil of thepotted green plant next to it.
Makabi´s smart pills applied on plants
man with glases in a suit looking at camera, smiling
Founder Marko Vincekovic

Sustainable agriculture and responsible food production

Makabi´s product is the result of a six-year-long research project at the faculty of agriculture of Zagreb University. This project was motivated by the current use of large amounts of chemical fertilizers in modern agriculture, which add to environmental pollution and affect human health.Marko Vinceković, founder of Makabi Agritech and Professor at the Faculty of Agriculture at the University of Zagreb elucidated this phenomenon on the example of an apple:
“This apple will go through 25 times of application of different types of agrochemicals; maybe this apple looks fantastic - but we don’t know what we are eating.”
Many companies in the market are offering plant protection and nutrition products based on heavy organic compounds (such as pesticides, herbicides, and mineral fertilizers). These are also usually put on the field in bigger amounts than the plants can absorb, resulting in the chemicals being washed away by rain and ending up in the groundwater, polluting the environment. Furthermore, these chemicals affect humans directly as consumers of the fertilized food.
“Maybe you will not see the negative impact right now, but in many years, in 20 years, you will probably have some kind of allergies, () diseases () or even cancer, and you will ask yourself “Where did I get that?”… everything is connected with the food”
, stated Marko. The team of researchers found a good solution for this problem: a “smart pill” for plants, that should protect the soil and supply the plant with nutrients. As they decided to bring it to the market, Makabi was founded in 2019 after winning its first award at a local start-up competition organized by the Innovation Centre in Zagreb (Zagreb Connect – Star-up Factory). Participation in various other programs helped the scientists to acquire the entrepreneurial skills necessary for the build-up of the start-up. MAKABI is an acronym of the Croatian name of one of their early projects (“Mala kapsula za veliku i zdravu biljku”).

Smart pills for the plants

Makabi´s goal is to help produce functional food - safe and nutritious for human consumption. The start-up has developed a 3-in-1 “smart pill” for plants as a substitute for current fertilizers. The idea is to cut down the use of modern agrochemicals by 30%. The pill contributes to soil and nature protection.
“If we have the smart pills for the humans, why can´t we do that for the plants?”
was the original idea that led to the creation of the pill, stated Marko. The pill contains bioactive components isolated from nature. It is created by the simultaneous synergetic encapsulation of both, microorganisms and chemical reagents. The technology of the encapsulation is based on green chemistry: the capsule is formed by biopolymer microparticles extracted from nature (e.g., polysaccharides and proteins) which will form a gel-like consistency under the right circumstances. The components of the pill are thereby protected from outer influences such as weather or temperature and bioactive components are immobilized, which allows for the survival of the contained microorganisms for several months and their release in certain time periods.The microorganisms on one hand act as growth promotors for the plants: Fungi e.g., can attach themselves to the roots of the plant and help them to absorb more nutrients from the soil. The accelerated growth and strength of the plant stimulate the elevated production of secondary plant metabolites, such as lycopene in tomatoes or chlorophyll in lettuce. These organic compounds have high antioxidant abilities. The human body profits from the intake of the latter, because they lower the presence of radicals that could cause diseases such as cancer for example. Thus, this technology creates functional food. On the other hand, those microorganisms are highly aggressive towards other pathogens and protect the plant from other pathogenic bacteria and fungi. Usually, commercial fertilizers are dumped on the field all at once in big amounts: this is rather contra-productive, as the plant is not able to take up this amount of product and the remains get swept away by the rain and accumulate in the groundwater, eventually polluting the environment and the human body. The smart pill presents a solution to this problem: It has a built-in time-release mechanism for its bioactive components, so the plants can absorb them when needed, making the utilization of additional fertilizer obsolete. Furthermore, the capsule is fully biodegradable. Currently, 100 grams of the microcapsule formulation can be applied to 25 plants and provide nutrition and protection for two months.Makabi's smart pill not only has the potential to be an innovative technology for making agriculture more sustainable and producing functional food responsibly, but the start-up also raises awareness and addresses food production challenges, which may become more severe in the future due to the climate crisis and other global factors.

The next steps at Makabi

Makabi achieved good results in using the formulation on plants such as tomatoes, strawberries and even tobacco in different conditions (field and greenhouse) as part of the research. The start-up´s plan of action for the near future is to obtain a patent for their technology, scale up the production and commercialise their product. For that, Makabi is looking for partners and companies in the industry who are willing to invest into Sustainable Chemistry solutions. Recently, Makabi Agritech was awarded the EU project "MAKABI - A small capsule for a healthier plant and functional food". The project is co-financed by the European Union - NextGenerationEU, i.e. Makabi received grants as part of the Call for Grants for newly founded companies from the National Recovery and Resilience Plan 2021 - 2026.

Furthermore, Makabi is actively working together with other start-ups: one such collaboration was formed with Raj Tanna from SCHUTZEN Care Private Limited during the ISC3 Investor Forum 2023 in Bonn, Germany. Here, the start-ups will join forces to produce smart pills for the textile industry. Makabi actively connects to other projects in the field of but not only restricted to plant protection at Zagreb university and industry.
“By myself I can´t do a lot, but if we are working together, we can make a change and we could make our world better”
, concluded Marko.With their innovative approach, Makabi who joined the ISC3 Global Start-up Service in 2019, is actively contributing to SDG 2 (zero hunger), SDG 12 (responsible consumption and production), and SDG 13 (life on land).