French farming experts study Israeli innovations


A delegation of top French agricultural professionals may adapt the Israeli
farming innovations they saw during a a trip to Beit Dagan with Israel’s
Agriculture Ministry on Monday.

The 20 agriculturalists learned from
ministry officials about the Israeli agricultural sector’s goals and obstacles –
such as supplying adequate manpower and remaining strong in the country’s
periphery.

Part of a week-long Israeli agricultural tour, the visit was
organization by the France-Israel Foundation, a French organization whose goal
has been to bring about a reconciliation in the relationship between Israel and
France, particularly through means such as culture and technology.

Just
as a group of French hitech bloggers were able to understand “the technological
dream of the Israelis” during a previous tour through the foundation, the hope
is that these agriculturalists will be able to “discover the miracle of Israel,”
Nicole Guedj, president of the France-Israel Foundation, told The Jerusalem
Post
.

Following the group’s informational visit to the ministry, the
delegation also visited the ministry’s Agricultural Research Organization at the
adjacent Volcani Center to witness some of these techniques in action, and went
on to dine with Agriculture Minister Orit Noked that evening. On Tuesday, the
group will be spending time in Jerusalem as well as several kibbutzim, and on
Wednesday, with professors at Ben-Gurion University’s Sde Boker
campus.

Guedj said she hopes that the French agriculturalists will find
real possibilities for cooperation and sharing of expertise with their Israeli
colleagues by the end of the week.

“French agriculturalists are
interested to know how this country that is in drought was able to become an
agricultural producer,” she said.

Many French farmers are therefore eager
to understand and employ Israeli techniques in irrigation that have allowed the
country to make an arid climate fertile, Guedj explained.

“Climate
change, which touches the entire planet, was a subject that brought about
surprise among French agriculturalists, who were not quite ready to deal with
the consequences of this change,” she said.

Maintaining a high level of
agricultural output will require that French farmers “redouble their
inventiveness and innovation,” according to Guedj.

One way for these
agriculturalists – who, for the most part, had never before been to Israel – to
accomplish this task is to experience such innovation in Israel first-hand, she
said.

Frederic Klauth, a farmer who grows wheat, barley and other legumes
and grains about 200 miles south of Paris, said he was here for “personal
enrichment” purposes and was very excited to witness some of Israel’s latest
technologies in agriculture.

Meanwhile, Marie-Thérèse Bonneau, deputy
general secretary of the French National Federation of Milk Produce, told the
Post that she was excited to see Israeli dairy techniques on a kibbutz the next
day. She was encouraged to see that the public research structure for
agriculture and farming goals in Israel are quite similar to those of
France.

“They said this morning, ‘grow more with less,’ and we have the
same objective,” Bonneau said.

Critical to the week-long visit is the
fact that both French and Israeli agriculturalists share many of the same
concerns, and can therefore benefit enormously from continued contact with each
other, according to Jean-Claude Sabin, founder and former president of
Sofiproteol, French agri-food group with specializations in vegetable oil.
Sabin, who was instrumental in recruiting the delegation members, said that he
wanted communications between the two countries’ farming professionals to
persist immediately after the visit.

While France has always been reputed
to be “the” country in terms of excelling in agriculture, it can now do well to
learn from Israel’s trials and successes in order to satisfy its own increasing
demand, according to Guedj.

“Israel is not very well known in the
agricultural world,” she said. “On the other hand, Israel gets a lot of interest
in this world precisely because Israel has done the proof that it is capable of
introducing solutions and anticipating problems that the French agricultural
world knows today.”

http://www.jpost.com/Sci-Tech/Article.aspx?id=258673

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