from the June 2006 issue

In mid-May Israel held its 16th International Agricultural Exhibition, Agritech 2006.

Agritech 2006 The tri-annual exhibition, this year brought together some 60 delegations from all over the world. Last year total agricultural exports totalled $2.7 billion. The sector employs 70,000 people. In the early 1950s, one full-time agricultural employee produced food for 17 people. In 2005 he supplied food for 95. Mainly responsible for this development has been the rapid mechanization of agriculture.

Floriculture is a good example where hothouses have humidity and temperature controlled by computers. Wireless communications transmit the data to the flower farmer who may be carrying out other tasks. Approximately 1.1 billion flower stems were exported in 2005. Acclimatized "summer flowers" are exported in seasons where they are not available in the recipient countries.

One of the most important advances in Israeli agriculture is drip irrigation. Drip irrigation can be a great aid to the efficient use of water. A well designed drip irrigation system or subsurface drip irrigation system will lose practically no water to runoff, deep percolation or evaporation. Irrigation scheduling can be precisely managed to meet crop demands, holding the promise of increased crop yields and quality.

Agricultural chemicals can be used more efficiently with drip irrigation. Since only the crop root zone is irrigated, nitrogen already in the soil is less subject to leaching losses.

There are a number of kibbutz industries active in the field. Netafim is the leader with annual exports of more than $350m. Another innovation is that of desert aquaculture whereby underground aquifers are used to produce fish.

Reprinted from the Israel High-Tech & Investment Report June 2006

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