a report from Secretary Ross
Greetings from Tel Aviv! This was the first modern city built in Israel. The city itself has a population of about 200,000 but the entire metropolitan area is home to 3.5 million of the country’s 8.2 million inhabitants.
On our first day of Climate Smart visits we traveled south to the Negev region and its capital, Beersheba. Netafim hosted us for a great discussion about how we all work together to achieve increased agricultural productivity and better quality while saving water. Netafim, a pioneer in drip irrigation and water use efficiency solutions, was established in 1965 by farmers in the Negev desert by the Kibbutz Hatzerim. According to CEO Ran Maidan they “need the farmers to smile” because Netafim has helped them accomplish yields, quality and a high return on investment!
Innovation and technology have helped Israel move from water scarcity to water security. They believe this is due in large part to the focus on agriculture – from the expansive use of recycled water (lots of purple pipe throughout the countryside) for irrigation and utilization of drip for all crops. I really liked Netafim’s stated values that drive its employees in their sense of mission: Dare; Make it Happen; Create an Impact; and, Partner for Success!
We were hosted for lunch in the kibbutz dining room before we made a quick stop at a Jojoba planting that is 14 years old, with an original subsurface drip irrigation system that has performed with very few problems and no replacements. Jojoba berries are pressed for oil used in cosmetics and as a botanical for lots of personal care products. The kibbutz processes its own Jojoba oil.California State Board of Food and Agriculture member Don Cameron is a member of our delegation and had an opportunity to visit the planting along with representatives of Netafim.
We also visited Rootility in Ashkelon, which took us to within eight miles of Gaza. Rootility is a startup plant breeding company using a high through-put accelerated conditions simulation system focused on roots to improve extreme temperature, drought and salinity resilience. The company – like Netafim – has a California presence. This year it is conducting trials on 850 acres of processing tomatoes. In addition to tomatoes, it has done proof-of-concept trials on peppers, melons, sugar beets, corn, rye grass and sunflowers.
Additionally, we visited the Volcani Center, a research arm of the Israel Ministry of Agriculture. CDFA Science Adviser Amrith Gunasekara is also part of our delegation and shows us the highlights.
We have also attended a networking reception and dinner in the Herzilya Pituah district of Tel Aviv with leaders of a number of Israel agriculture technology companies who are doing business in California. It was one of the most successful networking events I’ve ever seen – the conversations were non-stop all around the table and we left feeling like we have lots of potential partners for collaboration to meet our water and climate challenges.
The California Climate-Smart Agriculture Policy Mission is funded in part by the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s Specialty Crop Block Grant Program