Driving the future of farming with innovation
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Driving the future of farming with innovation

Driving the future of farming with innovation

Irrigation technology centres on delivering water and nutrients to plants in a precise and efficient manner, enabling optimal growing conditions and higher yields with minimum use of resources

Elad Levi, Netafim

Can you tell us about Netafim and its specific business model?

Netafim was the first company globally to invent and commercialise drip irrigation technology back in the 1960s. Today, it is the world’s largest irrigation company, and we continue to innovate within the sphere of precision irrigation to fight the scarcity of food, water, and land by providing advanced agricultural technologies and services.
Our technology comprises over 150 registered patents with 250 pending, illustrating our position at the forefront of this field. Our offerings include systems resistant to extreme conditions, water filtration technologies for harsh water, micro irrigation for various applications, alongside other durable and labour-saving products for irrigation systems, all of which are monitored and operated by our digital farming solutions.

We are an end-to-end irrigation projects company. We design, install, maintain and operate irrigation projects ranging from a few hectares to many thousands of hectares per project. Uniquely, Netafim specialises in large scale irrigated projects. We deliver projects from the water source to plant roots, providing pumping stations, water conduction grids, reservoirs and all in-field components.

We offer unique service models to large-scale customers including “irrigation-as-a-service”, enabling customers to implement advanced irrigation solutions with minimised irrigation-related risk in a lease-like model.

We also offer operation and maintenance packages that shift the management attention related to irrigation from the customer to Netafim’s experts, allowing farming entities to focus on maximising the value from their farms. We also provide crop expertise and solutions. Netafim employs over 150 agronomists worldwide, constantly developing best practices in crop cultivation. For example, our recent drip irrigation solution for rice saves 70 per cent water compared to traditional rice farming.

What is your business strategy post-pandemic?

The pandemic highlighted the vital need of food security to governments and we experienced record demand for our products and solutions including greenhouses and controlled environment technologies. We reshaped our strategy to support this demand via innovation, production capacity and M&As, including acquiring of Gakon (a leading Dutch greenhouse company) and completing our in-house capabilities for protected agriculture. We also accelerated our digital transformation by enhancing and enabling digital platforms, providing our customers with online access to vast knowledge.

How are you tackling the GCC region’s food security challenges?

Netafim is ideally suited to serve the GCC region as our roots are founded in desert-agriculture. We can offer GCC countries agricultural solutions created to work in hot and challenging climates with sandy soils and marginal water use. From growing vegetables, grains and forage crops, whether in an open-field or controlled environment, our track record in desert farming
is unparalleled.

Tell us in brief about digital farming and your solution – ‘NetBeat’

Netbeat is the first irrigation system with a ‘brain’. Operated remotely via a smartphone or computer, the system provides the key elements of irrigation and fertigation operation including monitoring soil, climate, and plant condition alongside analysis of field conditions including providing recommendations to the farmer.

What is the future of irrigation technology?

Irrigation technology centers on delivering water and nutrients to plants in a precise and efficient manner, enabling optimal growing conditions and higher yields with minimum use of resources. By making drip systems even more robust, easier to operate and with lower pressure-energy requirements, we believe drip technology will replace low efficiency methods like flood irrigation.

The “pixelisation” of irrigation blocks – we see the need to make irrigation even more precise, reaching management of crops by tree level. This trend follows the remote sensing abilities that are evolving exponentially.

Talking about smart agriculture, what do you think farms of tomorrow will look like?

We see two main trends that are woven together. Across the world, there is a natural transition of farming businesses between generations, and the younger generation is likely to accelerate the adoption of top agricultural technologies. AI, robotics, big data and other technological developments will be embedded in agricultural applications such as agro-machinery, irrigation, fertigation, crop protection and post-harvest processes. Coupled with this, remote and autonomous operations of farming activities are increasing, enabling farmers to maximise the effectiveness and efficiency of the farm while minimising resources. In turn, this will benefit consumers with fresher, healthier food and the use of these technologies significantly reduces the footprint of CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions in agricultural production.

Can you share some examples of successful projects in the Middle East and Africa region?

In Africa, we have partnered with the government of Rwanda to build a water and irrigation infrastructure for 5,600 hectares of land (Phase A) including a fully automated drip irrigation and fertigation scheme – both for the local community as well as multinational investors – fulfilling the vision of Paul Kagame, the President of the Republic of Rwanda.

We supplied irrigation and consulting to Azam Group company, one of the Africa’s conglomerates for more than 2000-hectare sugarcane project. The maximum yield for sugarcane in this location is up to 45 tonnes per hectare. Azam Group together with Netafim achieved more than 180 tonnes per hectare, showcasing the potential of advanced irrigation technologies across all climatic and soil conditions.

In Gabon, we recently kicked-off the largest drip-irrigation project in the world. In Morocco we have accomplished a fourth yearly double-digit growth in a row and we are getting prepared to establish a manufacturing plant during the second half of 2022.

In the GCC, we are serving multiple customers at various scales. We are exploring partnerships, both with private and government sectors, focusing on serving our partners globally while developing advanced solutions in order to jointly address the issue of regional food security and prosperity.

Elad Levi is the vice president – head of Middle East and Africa at Netafim

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