from the March 2009 issue

Agricultural high-tech

The 2009 Israel Agritech Fair is after its 3-day Annual Trade event. IHTIR recently visited this show, at Ein Hatzeva. This agricultural settlement is in Israel's Arava, halfway between the Dead Sea and the Red Sea on the Jordanian border. It lies in the Great Rift Valley, the fault line that extends from Africa's Great Lakes to Syria.) Here LED lights shine for the flowers, not the LSD for the flower children. mats covering the yellow sand underfoot.

The event is attended by 30,000 visitors from all 5 continents and includes delegations from neighboring countries. Many wander around in traditional dress. Local visiting dignitaries included the President of Israel, Sir Shimon Peres.

The main focus is on vegetables and flowers for export. On the vine today and in European markets the next morning, continuosly, in all 4 seasons, all the year around.

The Fair, ofcourse covers seeds and fertilizers and water and packaging and pest control and agro-machines and pumps and sprays and solar power.

Our focus is on some local Hi-Tech and Scientific angles and they are legion. Water is pumped from a very deep huge aquifer, and is slightly saline. The supply of water to the growing plants is directly to their roots. The water carries nutrients and protectives against parasites and micro-organisms. Cutting-edge sensors at the roots enable feedback FROM the plant to notify the system of its needs! All the growers use computers or cellular phones for remote monitoring and control.

The Mediterranean Fruit Fly is controlled by the release of sterilised male flies into hothouses, or dropped by millions on open fields by aircraft. The eggs never hatch. Beating The Heat : Up to 40 degrees C., inside the hothouse, is "cool" for the plants. The modern hothouse is not all covered by plastic sheets, today walls are fine mesh. Research shows that too hot is detrimental, thus the controlled use of water to cool the mesh walls ensures researched optimum monitored temperatures for growth! Genetically modified tomato plants grow to a height of 3 meters and are suspended by patented flexible attachments to overhead wires. Genetic modification has also enabled the growth of five to eight tomatoes on a stem. Harvesting is by one slice, saving time, labor and minimizing handling of the fruit.

Modern Agrogenetics enables developments in the color, size, shape and taste of the produce as well as extending shelf life. Outstanding examples we noted: long white aubergines, chocolate-colored bell peppers and 16 cherry tomatoes grown on a central stem. There is success with growing plants for work at waist height, for easier access.

We found the cultivation of exotic fish for the home aquarium a fascinating field. The work is under scientific guidance and sophisticated monitoring for feed, salinity, temperature and hygiene: all the result of research, much of it local.

The tiny fish grow in their thousands in tanks and are exported when they reach about 1 centimeter in length. Since these are commercial ventures, it is cardinal to count them. Softwear and counting technologies have been successfully developed to solve the problem, counting thousands of the these tiny very mobile fish at once.

There is growing use of solar panels to power the small motors in the hothouses and the electronics in place. Soil quality and analysis technologies were prominent. This research, as well as many others, are conducted by the local academic Arava International Institute which is attended by hundreds of foreign students, who havecome to Israel and to the Arava to study how to make their deserts bloom as well.

Reprinted from the Israel High-Tech & Investment Report March 2009

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