Smartphone farmers boost Israel’s exports
Posted Wednesday, December 14 2011 at 17:10
To many Kenyans, smartphones, tablets and laptop computers are all but tech-toys through which they access social web sites, take photographs, place calls and indulge in other hobbies as they while away their free time.
But thousands of miles away in tiny Israel these gadgets are farming tools that determine the fortunes of the agricultural sector which has adopted innovation to overcome the vagaries of harsh weather, limited land as well as scarcity of farm labourers.
“Our policy today is to produce more with the little we have and technology is playing a key part,” said Yitzhak Kiriati, head of agro technology, water and environment at the Israel Export and International Cooperation Institute.
The number of farmers in Israel with Internet access on a variety of digital gadgets is high and this has changed the way farms do business.
Statistics by the Israel Venture Capital Research Centre showed that Israel currently has almost 4,000 active technology start-ups — more than any other country outside the US. The country has almost 8,600 hi-tech companies. In the third quarter of 2011 alone, 137 high-tech companies raised Sh46.9 billion ($522 million) from venture investors – both local and foreign.
This huge investment in technology are reflected in the country’s economy as high-tech exports account for close to half of Israel’s annual exports, according to its Central Bureau of Statistics.
Farmers said they’re increasingly using the Internet to speed up their work flow, improve their farming techniques, market their crops, connect with customers and retailers and fulfil a variety of regulatory requirements.
Picture this. It is midday within the vast Arava desert and Eviatar Ginat repeatedly looks at his smart phone as he conducts a group of visitors around his tiny farm where he produces ornamental fish for export to Europe.
Living in a remote area 250 kilometres south of the capital, Tel Aviv, a visitor to Mr Ginat’s farm would be hard pressed to figure out why the farmer kept glancing at the gadget which is known for its popularity with city dwellers who invariably use them to download the latest movies and songs.
“Technology has changed the way I do things and I can take a break from physical presence on this farm,” the managing partner of Ginat Fish company said.
“I use this to monitor the concentration of oxygen and other substances in the fish tanks and take corrective measures. I receive alerts on this phone even when I’m away and respond appropriately.”
Hundreds of kilometres away at Hof Hasharon dairy farm on the outskirts of Tel Aviv, the marvel of technology transforming agriculture is again played out.
Here, computer chip technology is used to monitor the gestation cycles of cows and also plan for milking sessions in real time.
“We have a special belt with a chip that is tied around the animal’s leg and sends signals to the computer,” said Guy Itzkovitch, the marketing director at SCR Technologies, which that provides the technology to farmers.
“Excess movement over a certain period of time would mean the animal is on heat and needs to be inseminated.”
Through this technology, farmers cut animal husbandry expenses and even reduce wasted semen.