Engineers from Agri Projects at work building high-tech greenhouses. Monsoons in India are both a blessing and a curse. As the heavy rains pour down, they provide the season’s much-needed water for irrigating crops. But monsoons also wipe out entire villages. They cause mudslides, and contaminate potable water. Diseases fester and spread quickly.
Now an Israeli company is using its expertise in water management to try to help Indians living in the Cherrapunjee region in the Indian state of Meghalaya – known as the wettest place on earth – to store rainwater and reforest.
Agri Projects, which is based in Petah Tikvah, combines clean technologies from about 15 major Israeli water companies like the Israeli firm, Plastro Irrigation, with other Israeli water management technologies to build clients in countries ranging from India, to the Ukraine, Thailand and Mexico, complete turn-key solutions in water management, and greenhouse construction and cultivation, offering people who need it most, the opportunity to grow food year round.
Providing water storage facilities
According to experts, the devastation during monsoon season in Cherrapunjee is particularly drastic. Clear-cutting of trees in the region has led to the disappearance of perennial springs, causing an acute water shortage despite heavy rains.
David Rumnong Ashkenazy, the business head and India representative for Agri Projects welcomed a team of Israeli experts recently to India where they are starting the new water conservation project that will give communities in India the ability to be self-sustainable by showing them how to build, water, and sustain their own nurseries and plantations.
The company is also helping the people redevelop and reforest the land based on the Israeli Jewish National Fund model.
“We have planned a holistic approach and steps will be taken wherein rainwater harvesting and a distribution system for livelihood, forestry and agriculture will be created together with the local experts for a phase-wise implementation,” Ashkenazy tells ISRAEL21c.
Building work on the $5 to $10 million dollar project, paid for by the Indian government, will start next month. The project will be a pilot that provides India with both the Israeli technology and know how for conserving water, and for growing and irrigating agricultural produce and trees.
“This is the first pilot project,” says the company director Motti Sharon. “The plan is for them to use this as a model and multiply it around the province, with the power to improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of people,” he tells ISRAEL21c.
“We are not only transferring the technology solutions, but the know-how of how to manage these types of projects so they will be able to take care of themselves.”
The new project will be the third in India for Agri Projects. The company is working on a post-harvest project there and is also running a citrus scheme set up in an Indian state just above Bangladesh. While the citrus tree project only benefits a few hundred people, the Israeli model in agricultural is catching on. “It is a small and growing project,” explains Sharon.
Agri Projects was founded in 2005 by Sharon who now runs a team of 25 experts, based all over the planet, some in remote locations. Born on a kibbutz in Israel, Sharon has over 25 years experience in managing irrigation systems, integrating agricultural projects, and managing and establishing water delivery and agriculture projects around the world.
For-profit for the social good
Agri Projects is a for-profit company which gives people around the world access to Israeli greenhouse and irrigation technology, but along the way, also helps make the planet a better place.
In Mexico, Agri Projects set up cooperative greenhouses with a local partner, and the Mexican government. The idea was to give Mexicans in rural locations Israeli high-tech greenhouse equipment, so that they could grow greenhouse produce hydroponically for the US market in the winter, when fresh produce in some parts is rare.
Including about 100 greenhouses over a five-hectare area, Agri Projects helped give a viable income to about 25 villages in the Yucatan region. “These are not just regular greenhouses, but small, very high-tech and fully computerized ones,” says Sharon, adding that in Mexico the company has also helped set up large farms. “If they run it in the right way for producing in the winter, they can get excellent prices for their produce in the US.”
Infrastructure was paid for by the Mexico government, with an investment from the US.
“We are satisfied after we do a project in these kinds of regions,” Sharon tells ISRAEL21c. “It gives you a great feeling.”
Not yet active in America, Agri Projects has only just started negotiating with some clients there, but the opportunities for expansion are great says Sharon.
“The US is buying most of its greenhouse vegetables from Mexico and Canada. The percentage of what Americans produce is quite low and I don’t understand why they don’t make their own greenhouses to produce vegetables,” he says.
“This is one of our strengths in Mexico and the Ukraine: a very cost effective-price, which is an advantage,” he adds.