Agri Business

Israeli green tech to revive parched Latur farms

Tanya Thomas Mumbai | Updated on January 20, 2018

Abner Chin of Green 2000 at a parched field in Latur, Maharashtra

At Kfar Vitkin, a town in central Israel, thrives a co-operative agricultural community called a moshav, one of many such spread across the dry West Asian country.

Soon, drought-hit Latur, in Maharashtra, is likely to learn a lesson or two in organic farming and efficient irrigation from a pair of Israeli farmers from Kfar Vitkin.

Mode of operation

Refael Dayan, promoter of Green 2000 and Abner Chin, who is designated to head the Indian project, have several decades of farming experience behind them, from their education at agricultural boarding schools to their work with provincial farming councils and later their success in exporting equipment and setting up greenhouses in Africa and Central Asia.

Green 2000 builds farms from scratch, starting with greenhouses, buying and operating farm equipment, procuring hybrid seeds and organic fertilisers and pest control, and setting up the irrigation system, among other things.

In India, Dayan and Chin are in talks with many private entities to offer their services. Among them are Amit Deshmukh, MLA from Latur and the eldest son of former Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, and Abhijit Pawar, nephew of former Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, both of whom have farming interests.

The Deshmukh and Pawar families met Dayan and Chin at an agri-tech exhibition in Tel Aviv last May.

The organic farm they are proposing to build for Abhijit Pawar will be spread over 12.5 acres; the Deshmukh farm is expected to be slightly larger at 17.5 acres.

Exchanging know-how

Amit Deshmukh told BusinessLine: “The idea is to exchange knowledge and technology, and use the expertise that they have achieved over there. Israel farm products fetch the highest prices in the world, and there is a good global market for organic farming”.

BusinessLine could not reach Abhijit Pawar’s office.

The first will be a pilot project, but Deshmukh said, “There are lots of farmers’ groups associated with us, through the Krishi Vigyan Kendras in Latur. We want farmers, particularly young people who want to continue farming, to be exposed to this technology.” “In Israel, we’re experts in dry places,” Chin explained.

Temperatures during an Israeli summer typically cross the 45° C mark, while rain is sparse and unevenly distributed, making Israelis pioneers in desert farming over the years.

“If you put us in Assam, we’ll have a problem, given the 3000 mm of rain annually. But in dry places, we flourish. Latur has other kinds of problems, but climate-wise it’s good for us.” Chin should know. He was born in Bombay –– his surname used to be Chincholkar –– and immigrated to Israel in 1969 with his family, but he wanted to give something back to India, as a promise to his grandfather who stayed behind.

“If we start this project in India, we will be here for 10 years. We’ll set up our office in Pune and hope to have many more clients from there,” Chin added.

Exporting the tech

This isn’t the first time he will be exporting agricultural technology, explains Dayan, who has done similar projects in Nigeria, Senegal, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, in parts of the US (California and Texas) and in Mexico.

Some of these projects have been rolled out in collaboration with local governments; in others, they worked entirely with private farmers.

Govt, private projects

To governments, Dayan sells a product called ASTC (agricultural services and training centre), where he builds a central farming unit that local marginal farmers can access to buy agro-supplies, hire out a tractor or use the packing and cooling facilities after harvest for a fee.

An ASTC, built across roughly five acres, can serve up to 5,000 marginal farming families in a 25-40 km radius and can cost between $5 and $10 million.

Dayan declined to reveal the costs for private farming projects.

Just back from a recce at Latur, Chin found that water needs to be hauled across miles right now for both drinking and farming in the parched region. Israel perfected drip irrigation techniques back in the 1960s.

“The effectiveness of drip irrigation in farming is 10 times more than flood irrigation, it uses water efficiently. Farmers can’t go on wasting water when Latur city has no drinking water. We want this project to involve the people and influence the local community.”

Published on April 26, 2016

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