Startup Ecotex has completed a $1.5 million first round from the

Millennium Materials Technologies Fund

venture capital fund.

Ecotex is negotiating a further $1 million investment with multinational agrochemical firms, said Millennium co-manager Eli Even.

The company achieved a post-money valuation of $5.5 million.

Ecotex has developed polymer sheeting to cover ground, for use in farming and gardening. Its product can substitute for the polyethylene sheeting used today. Development was done in cooperation with the Agriculture Ministry's research center, the Volcani Institute which is an agricultural research center, and Kibbutz Nir Oz.

The polymer sheeting is applied in liquid form, by spraying. The spray creates a layer 10 microns thick over the ground, that can last for three to six months.

The advantages of Ecotex's invention, compared with standard sheeting, include obviation of the need to clear the sheeting, as it degrades by itself after a while. Also, no holes need be made for the plants, which burst their way through. Another benefit is savings on herbicides.

Even estimates that Ecotex can achieve sales of $1 million in 2002, climbing to $5 million in 2003. The market for polyethylene sheeting is $40 billion a year, he estimates.

The company employs 10 people at its Nir Oz facility. It has signed marketing agreements with companies in the United States, Europe, Australia and China.