How Israeli Innovations are Feeding the World

Since Israel's earliest days and even before it was established, agriculture has been crucially important. A dry region with little water, Israel needed innovative solutions to successfully produce its own food.

To believe we can supply food with this land was a dream... Now, we are one of the global leaders in agricultural technology.

Danielle Abraham, International Friends of Volcani

Thanks in large part to the groundbreaking work of the Volcani Center, Israel now serves as a leader for sustainable agriculture around the globe. Volcani was founded in 1921 to grow food in a land area not naturally conducive to most agriculture. Today, Volcani is successfully supporting Israelis' health and food security by empowering farmers. Their efforts have allowed the practice of farming to flourish in even the hottest deserts of Israel. In 2017, Volcani was awarded the prestigious UNESCO International Prize for Research in the Life Sciences. 

“To believe we can supply food with this land was a dream,” says Danielle Abraham, director of the International Friends of Volcani. “To undertake agriculture successfully, a country needs four key resources: water, land, human resources, and export markets. With none of these resources readily available, Israel was forced to invest in research to ensure agricultural success. Now, we are one of the global leaders in agricultural technology, and our produce is very good.”

In 2015, a grant from Helmsley's Israel Program expanded Volcani’s Gilat Center for Arid Area Agriculture in the northern Negev desert region. The specialized center works hand in hand with the Negev farming community to understand the issues they face, and its focus is on cutting-edge research to solve the agricultural challenges of both Israel and arid areas all over the world.  

Since its launch, the team has grown by 40 percent and the center has purchased new state-of-the-art equipment. Gilat researchers are developing tools to help farmers overcome heat and minimize crop losses, grow high-quality produce in protected greenhouses, and increase water-use efficiency. Farmers’ needs are taken into consideration throughout the research process and this close connection with the farming community has been a key component of the Gilat Center’s success.

“It was really the Helmsley support that helped us attract leading scientists from all over the world and create a collaborative environment to do innovative research,” says Dr. Uri Yermiyahu, director of the Gilat Center. “In less than three years, we have greatly increased our capacity and in turn, the impact of our work.”

Most importantly, Gilat is driving its global reach by spreading its knowledge of arid agriculture.

To enhance impact, Israel frequently hosts government officials, UN representatives, and agricultural leaders who seek to learn the latest innovations in sustainable agriculture. The Gilat Center leads capacity-building courses for global audiences and hosts many international doctorate and post-doc students to complete their research on-site.

“Last year, we were in California doing a workshop with farmers addressing the shortage of water there,” says Dr. Yermiyahu. “It has been incredible to empower countries facing similar problems by sharing our solutions.”

Gilat scientists are tackling challenges that affect everyone – a growing population, water shortages, and climate change. With so many shared concerns for these mounting issues, Israel’s innovations are in great demand as people around the world pursue new ways to produce food while protecting the environment for generations to come.