Israel’s Netafim is the world’s largest micro-irrigation company. For several decades, the US has been its largest market. But times are changing, and the company expects India to become its largest market – overtaking the US – very soon. Netafim already has a wholly-owned subsidiary Netafim Irrigation Pvt Ltd in India, with its headquarters in Vadodara. R N Bhaskar spoke to Netafim’s CEO Ran Maidan who became Netafim’s head honcho in 2014. Prior to his engagement with Netafim, Maidan worked in senior positions with several companies involved in agricultural solutions.
He has developed business opportunities and new markets, established long-term infrastructure, generated significant top-line growth and improved margins. He holds a BA in Accounting and Economics and an MBA specialising in Finance from Bar-Ilan University, and is a CPA in Israel.
An edited excerpt:
Conventionally, the US has been Netafim’s largest market. But India is fast catching up. Could you let us know how you perceive India’s significance for Netafim?
At Netafim, we see India as a key strategic market, maybe the one with the largest potential globally.
Having a large agriculture market and severe water scarcity, India needs to grow more with less and Netafim solutions are a key to addressing these challenges. The Indian government acknowledges this need and has allocated significant resources to improving agricultural efficiencies and improving farmers’ lives. This includes specific funds for micro-irrigation.
We are very encouraged by the current trends – there’s increased awareness of smart irrigation among farmers, and the government supports, and maintains a favourable policy toward our industry. We believe that there is significant room for further growth in India following these trends, and we are confident that we will continue to serve farming communities in an innovative and reliable way, while at the same time leverage our strong presence in the country in order to bring our business to an even higher level.
Netafim has come a long way since it was first set up within a kibbutz. Could you give us to brief outline of how a corporate entity came to be set up from within the kibbutz, yet retaining and nurturing its links with the kibbutzim?
Netafim, an innovative and global company with a presence in more than 110 countries, was created over 50 years ago at Kibbutz Hatzerim. Founded by farmers for farmers, Netafim still remains connected to its unique roots. The company operates its largest manufacturing plant at Hatzerim and also has plants at two other kibbutzim.
Netafim also continues to maintain strong logistical and emotional ties with Hatzerim. As many as 100 members of this kibbutz are employed by the company, while kibbutz members feel deeply involved with, and take pride in, the company. In addition, many of Netafim’s managers and employees originate from Hatzerim/ Netafim and other kibbutzim throughout the country, where they gained extensive agricultural experience, and therefore keenly understand the challenges that farmers face today.
Netafim has shown how even crops that were conventionally flood-irrigated can be benefitted by drip irrigation? Can you give some details about the average reduction in water consumption and the resultant increase in yields?
Netafim was the first company in the world to recognise the concept that plants could grow better with the application of less water.
Yields are significantly better using micro irrigation techniques – which includes the application for nutrients as well using micro irrigation techniques. This way, just the right amount of water and nutrient is used for the plant. If required, pesticides and other chemicals can also be used using the same technique. Netafim offers the entire range of equipment and advisory services to ensure that the farmer is the eventual beneficiary.
Yields can change from place to place, depending on a variety of conditions. This includes weather, the seeds used, and the manner in which technology is used.
But our studies show that India’s yields can be improved substantially even with the use of less water through the micro-nutrigation techniques promoted by Netafim. This is true even when flood water farming is advocated.
For instance, if sugarcane is grown using this technique, sugarcane yields can be increased 133 per cent — 70 tonnes versus 30 tonnes an acre, even with water savings of 49 per cent. You reduce water consumption to just around 4,960 cubic metres an acre compared to 9,800 cubic metres that were being used earlier.
In case of cotton which is an important crop for some parts of India. Using our technologies farmers have been able to increase their yield by as much as 88 per cent — they now grow almost 1.7 tonnes an acre compared with 0.9 tonnes produced earlier. Water consumption too has dropped 47 per cent to 1,680 cubic metres an acre compared to 3,600 cubic metres consumed earlier.
Similar results can be seen with potatoes where yield increases by around 80 per cent to produce 10.9 tonnes an acre compared to 6.1 tonnes earlier. Water savings are 54 per cent — you use 1,100 cu mtrs compared to 2,400 earlier.
Even a flood irrigation crop like rice has seen excellent results. Yields have increased by a whopping 200 per cent. Farmers can now produce 10 tonnes a hectare compared to 2-5 tonnes earlier. And 50 per cent of the water too gets saved.
Or even take a water guzzling plant like bananas where yields can increase 52 per cent to 35 tonnes an acre compared to 23 tonnes earlier. This is even when water savings are to the tune of 45 per cent — you end up using just 3,880 cu metres of water per acre compared to 7,040 cubic metres earlier.
Our work in India has just begun. We see a great deal of growth, for the farmers, for the country and for ourselves in India.