Some people get to age 50 and think of slowing down. Nice early retirement, small beach-house somewhere, prepping for the grandkids, nothing too strenuous, bit of golf, tennis or bridge maybe, catch up all that reading that you didn't manage in the last 15 years. Our valued client, Netafim, has a different approach. After working tirelessly to lead the drip revolution for the past 50 years, the company is stronger, faster, more agile, more experienced, more capable and more poised than ever before to turn Mass Adoption of Drip irrigation into our new reality all around the world. At age 50, Netafim is just taking off. And that means that the next 50 years are going to be one helluva ride. Before I go on, there's one thing I wanted to say to Netafim:
HAPPY 50th BIRTHDAY!
And what a birthday year it has been (and still is). A fitting culmination of everything that Netafim has been passionate about for almost a billion days. For those of you who don't yet know Netafim, suffice it to say that this company has made drip irrigation virtually a household name in the world of agriculture. Drip - or micro- irrigation enables improved agricultural yields with lower water, energy, chemicals and land use through targeted irrigation systems that precision-feed water and plant nutrients to crops. With 3,700 employees at the end of 2014, working with large agricultural concerns and thousands of smallholder farmers across emerging markets, Netafim has succeeded in expanding the use of drip irrigation, advancing both social and environmental sustainability in a systemic way. There are few companies that produce a product that is inherently net positive for the planet. Netafim is one of them.
Here are some of Netafim's 2015 stories:
Publication of Netafim's 2014 Communication on Progress (COP) to the UN Global Compact.
Netafim publishes a full Sustainability Report every two years. In the interim years, Netafim meets its commitment to the UN Global Compact as a member of the UNGC's LEAD program and the CEO Water Mandate by publishing a COP. The 2014 COP covers 21 UNGC LEAD criteria and references Netafim's 2020 Sustainability Strategy that was defined in 2014.
The COP includes case studies from Netafim's recent activity. Netafim always has a host of fascinating projects to talk about. One, for example, is the breakthrough use of drip irrigation for rice.
Rice is a major crop of which the majority is grown by smallholder farmers. The average age of rice farmers is rising as younger generations have no desire to work in such labor-intensive jobs. The decreasing number of rice farmers is a major issue worldwide, as rice is the main source of nutrition in many regions. As rice supplies become more difficult to maintain, governments are seeking new ways to increase production. Drip irrigation is a solution to increasing rice yields while using fewer resources, resulting in lower cost for land preparation and fertilizers, lower greenhouse gas emissions and less physical labor. Netafim currently maintains collaborative research initiatives for rice irrigation in many countries including Japan, China, Thailand, Australia, Ukraine, and Spain to help identify the optimum irrigation conditions in each country in alignment with local climatic conditions and needs. And here's another thing. Did you know that the use of traditional flood irrigation methods has an effect of increasing arsenic absorption from the soil by rice plants? How would you like a little arsenic with your rice pudding? Arsenic exposure has been associated with certain cancer risks if ingested in high quantities. Through Netafim's research with the University of Pisa in Italy, researchers were able to reduce the arsenic content of drip irrigated rice to almost zero. Hope it still tastes as good! Here's a short vid (scroll back to top of the page) where Dubi Raz, Netafim’s Corporate Agronomy Director, talks about rice irrigation and other things at Israel's 2015 Agritech exhibition.
Another case study describes Netafim's transformational involvement in Karnataka, India - an initiative that is changing the landscape of farming in this region and improving the local economy and quality of life. The initiative is advanced by the Water Resources Department of Karnataka, a south western state in India. Karnataka's community irrigation program is the largest of its kind in India, covering 59 villages and affecting 15,000 farmers. Karnataka suffers from drought during its dry season, when land irrigated by traditional canal irrigation systems lies fallow. Using water-efficient drip irrigation, double the land-area originally planned for the program can be developed. Netafim India is installing drip irrigation across 11,700 hectares of land and providing crop management tools and training for local farmers. A successful outcome for the Karnataka project will be a turning point for the region and a model for reapplication in several other areas of India.
Publication of a book about Israel's leading role in water conservation - with Netafim's help
In 2015, Seth M. Siegel published "Let there be water - Israel's solution for a water-starved world"
. The book describes the leading role Israel has played in the development of water technology from desalination to drip irrigation and much more in between. Netafim is featured in the book, with references from Netafim's history and impact and quotes from key figures in the company, past and present. One is Naty Barak, Netafim's Chief Sustainability Officer and relentless campaigner for advancing the human right to water and the use of irrigation to help solve many of the world's problems - including several addressed by the recently ratified Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
. Few companies have books written about them. Guess this one will take pride of place on the Netafim bookshelf, and on mine... maybe also on yours!
Further market leading innovations
When I first started working with Netafim some years ago, I thought that drip irrigation was just a load of plastic tubing laid on the ground with holes in them to let the water through slowly. I was wrong. Drip irrigation at surface level or at sub-surface level is totally high-tech and deploys top-end technologies for water emitting systems implanted in the irrigation pipes that meet the needs of different crops, soil types, nutrient requirements and much more. Anti-clogging, flow rates, width of tubing, not to mention the fully automated crop management systems that enable farmers to control their fields remotely makes drip irrigation a technology triumph of techy geeks, programmers and agronomists. Netafim stays at the forefront of technology and leads the market with new developments. In 2015, for example, Netafim launched a new low-flow drip irrigation system, the most advanced in the world, that surpasses historical barriers in clogging resistance, durability and operational efficiency.
I am not much of a techy myself - it has taken me all my time to figure out Win 8.1 and iOS 9.0.2 - but the benefits of improving drip irrigation technology are quite clear.
More business, more markets, more sustainability
Netafim CSO Naty Barak with Vingroup
In 2015, Netafim made further progress in advancing Mass Adoption of Irrigation (MAD) to help farmers and food producers around the world grow more with less. In a $17 million deal in Vietnam, Netafim is supplying greenhouse structures, drip irrigation, climate control systems, know-how, and agronomic support for Vingroup, Vietnam’s largest publicly-traded real estate operator, in one of southeast Asia's largest agri projects. In Senegal, Netafim is supplying an end-to-end drip irrigation solution for the Senegal Sugar Company (CSS), one of Africa’s largest sugarcane producers. CSS – Senegal’s largest private-sector employer – started growing sugarcane over 40 years ago and now produces over 1.3 million tons of sugarcane annually. Drip irrigation is a key factor in the company's expansion and efficiency advances, creating food for the world while supporting the local economy and livelihoods. Around the world, Netafim continued to expand in India and many African markets, making the 2015 birthday year one of the most memorable yet. With every additional drip irrigation system that is sold, our planet and our society become just a little bit more sustainable.
There were many more events and developments in 2015, including a host of corporate birthday celebrations and recognitions. Add this blog post to the list. For us, as consultants, in addition to our pride at working with a company that makes such a positive impact through its core business, what really makes it fun is that Netafim is staffed with simply great and totally dedicated people who are an absolute pleasure to work with.
If I am still writing this blog in another 50 years' time - hmmmm, what's the chance of that?! - I'll update you on progress in 2065. Stay tuned.
Elaine Cohen is a CSR consultant, Sustainability Reporter, HR Professional an Ice Cream Addict! Author of Understanding G4: the Concise guide to Next Generation Sustainability Reporting AND Sustainability Reporting for SMEs: Competitive Advantage Through Transparency AND CSR for HR: A necessary Partnership for Advancing Responsible Business Practices. You can follow her on Twitter @elainecohen