‘The future is already here - it’s just not very evenly distributed.’ William Gibson
While we are reluctant to say that the future of agriculture has arrived (the steady drumbeat of new innovations and pioneering research is a testament to the vast untapped potential of this field), Gibson’s point around uneven distribution can hardly be stressed enough. Impactful technologies and methodologies with the potential to increase the yields, resilience and quality of crops abound, but their application remains deeply inconsistent throughout the world. This is why sharing Israel’s pioneering agricultural expertise is our raison d'être and something which we believe has almost boundless potential to improve economic, nutritional and environmental prospects throughout the world.
In pursuit of this mission, the last few months have been particularly busy, exciting and inspiring. From the 24th February to the 17th March, working in close partnership with the Caribbean Israel Leadership Coalition and with significant support from the Minister of Agriculture and Marine Resources with the Government of The Bahamas, Mr. Michael Pintard, we delivered a webinar series introducing Smart Farming technologies to the Caribbean region. By doing so, it was our ambition to support regional discussions about agricultural modernisation and help raise awareness regarding some of the latest Smart Farming developments in Israel.
A few things in particular stand out from the webinar series. Here they are:
#1 - The agricultural community throughout the region is eager to acquire and implement new skills
Nothing could have prepared us for the overwhelming interest and excitement which the webinar series generated. We had planned for a few hundred attendees across the region. By the time the first webinar came about, well over 2500 farmers, entrepreneurs, investors, extension officers and government officials had registered from across the whole region. The webinar series was even reported on news stations throughout the Caribbean.
Nor was this merely a case of participants voting with their feet. When we asked participants to rank different support measures, training/advisory services was second only to access to finance. In the post-webinar survey, a whopping 99.1% of respondents stressed their eagerness to go further and learn about Smart Farming in greater depth. Nor is this learning for learning’s sake: over 93% of respondents noted that they have started considering implementing Smart Farming methods following the webinar series.
#2 - Israel has much to offer and Israelis are eager to share
If ever someone needed a reminder of why Israel is so often put on a pedestal in the realm of agricultural expertise, look no further than this webinar. Drawing exclusively on Israeli experts, the webinar series covered a broad range of topics spanning across the value chain including:
Smart Farming for irrigation;
Smart Farming for poultry farming;
Hydroponics and greenhouse use;
Smart Farming for crop protection;
Blockchain for agriculture;
Smart Farming for post-harvest crop management; and
Digitization as a means to enhance market access and quality control.
Beyond mere expertise, the willingness of Israeli stakeholders to share their insights throughout the world is there for all to see. 16 expert Israeli speakers volunteered their time to share their hard-won insights, including the CEOs of CropX, Vertical Field and Viridix, the Executive Director of the US-Israel Binational Agricultural Research and Development Fund, alongside staff from Israel’s Volcani Center, from the Israeli Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, from Start-Up Nation Central and from companies such as Brandmark.
#3 - A broad array of challenges
The challenges which stand in the way of agricultural enhancement across the Caribbean region are significant and diverse. They include access to finance, extreme weather events, the difficulties for smallholder farmers to achieve competitiveness without economies of scale, access to markets, infrastructure, compliance with produce standards and insufficient access to farming equipment and technologies, to name but a few.
To help shed some light on the needs across the region and their perceived importance according to local farmers, we will be using the extensive quantitative and qualitative data gathered by our team to draft a report on this very topic. Watch this space!
#4 - Webinars have their place, but also their limitations
Israel’s agricultural experience is one marked by close-knit groundwork undertaken by partners including farmers, extension workers and researchers. This is a far cry from delivering a webinar across the world. Put simply: we’re far more comfortable with dirt under our nails than speaking in front of a camera.
To this end, it was particularly exciting to hear Minister Pintard put forward his Agrivillage vision and welcome our assistance in this groundbreaking initiative.
As exhilarating and impactful as the webinar has been, we eagerly await the opportunity for our experts to resume their direct engagements on the ground.