Haifa Group CEO: Climate crisis hits agriculture hard

Motti Levin credit: Cadya Levy
Motti Levin credit: Cadya Levy

Haifa Group CEO Motti Levin told the Globes Innovation in Agriculture Conference that using the precision agriculture model is vital for food security.

"I want to open the roundtable discussion with a few words about October 7," said Haifa Group CEO Motti Levin at the opening of Globes Innovation in Agriculture Conference. "Our hearts are with the fighters in the field, our condolences to the people who fell in battle and in the events. We are with the injured and especially with the hostages, who we hope will return to us soon. "The world is changing before our eyes, and not for the better. According to UN data, in 2050, a time when we and our children will be alive. Just around the corner. We will find ourselves in a world that has 40% more people, with food consumption increasing by 70% while the availability of decent land for cultivation will decrease by 13%.

"Agriculture is a romantic concept," Levin continued. "What's more beautiful than a gnarled hand holding a brown clod of soil. The relationship between man and the soil is becoming something that is shown in movies, written in books, but the truth is that over the years the traditional agriculture that has developed is ultimately polluting agriculture. The concept of fertilizing the soil, which sounds like a very romantic concept is less to do with reaching the plant, is less precise than reaching the plant itself, which is what really interests us."

"Fertilizing the ground requires growing use of water"

Levin stresses that most agriculture in the world today is still traditional and so to produce optimization of farming land, all types of fertilizers are spread, fertilizing the ground and that is a very big problem because fertilizing the ground requires growing use of water.

"The combination of a lot of water and a lot of fertilizer creates pollution of the ground, of water sources and evaporation processes that are very problematic. Fertilization has become the second source of the ozone problem after transport. Everyone is looking to produce more with less, but the excess fertilization is not less, and certainly does not produce greater yields.

"Often, farmers follow their parents and their grandparents. They have a tendency to use the same methods, but we need to get used to the precision agriculture model. It is an existing and familiar model, the meaning of which is to care for the plant and not the soil, just as we raise our children. "I have three children, each child is different, with different needs, and each child receives different treatment. The same rule also applies to pepper. If pepper is grown in California, it is not grown under the same conditions as pepper in Israel or the Netherlands. That is why the solutions of precision agriculture, that is Haifa Group's flagship activity, is actually individual treatment according to the needs of the plant, wherever it grows. Precision agriculture is nothing new. It was created in the 1960s in Israel, when two groups that were established - Netafim and Haifa Group - created a new model called fertigation - combination of fertilization through irrigation systems, with high-quality soluble fertilizers."

Leading circular economic processes

And yet, he adds, "Most agriculture in the world rests on traditional methods. Precision agriculture does not always fit with the interests of producers or governments. At the level of farmers, the knowhow is lacking while incentives are lacking to make their conservative farming more precise.

"Governments must take a very clear position, go and encourage and build training centers for the world of innovation in agritech. The ultimate aim is to produce a holistic solution that will reduce use of sources, while implementing technological solutions, as Haifa Group practices.

"I want to show you a slide of a process that Haifa Group is leading in the circular economy. What we see is how Haifa Group, in a situation where it receives energy from the sun, uses this energy to operate a plant for blue ammonia production - a project that should be completed in a exactly one year. The blue ammonia has many uses, including for production processes of various types of inputs, and the fertilizer industry also relies on ammonia, and at the same time it is also possible to capture carbon dioxide that is produced by the ammonia extraction process. This is an extremely important gas for agriculture, for seawater desalination plants, for the food and beverage industry, and for aquaculture, like growing algae."

"Ultimately," he says, "We have a process that begins with the sun and ends in a greenhouse into which carbon dioxide is pumped to improve the photosynthesis processes, and this is an example of a circular economy. I urge all my colleagues in the industry to implement these models. In the end we are not only here to make profits, we are here to make sure that the earth will be a place where future generations can also live comfortably as has been up to now.

"Our role is to create a different reality in which the State of Israel becomes a shining example on food security. This can be achieved. We have all the tools, and our borders will also be stronger when our farmers return to tilling the land."

Full disclosure: The Conference was held in partnership with Haifa Group 

Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on January 22, 2024.

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd., 2024.

Motti Levin credit: Cadya Levy
Motti Levin credit: Cadya Levy
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