A conversation with Natan Feldman – Vp Marketing, Business Developmen & Innovation
Is the world ready for the prospected increase in population and the need to feed almost 10 billion people by 2050?
There is an understanding and agreement that the issue of food production and supply must be attended to all its aspects and by all levels – from governments and international bodies to farmers. From our side, we are focused on improving the farmers’ ability to grow food efficiently, and in a sustainable manner. This requires development of products, technologies and practices, which we do continuously.
What are the additional challenges that global agriculture is facing?
First, the increase in global population is inevitably associated with depletion of resources – land, water, minerals and energy, so not only that we have to produce more food, but we also have to do it with less available inputs. Improving use efficiency inputs, i.e., getting maximum yield from any drop of water and each gram of fertilizer, is important, but for the long run, our goal must be fully sustainable farming interfaces, based on circular economy.
Another major challenge is climate change. Its impact on agriculture is immediate and widespread, including biotic aspects such as occurrence of various diseases, as well as abiotic aspects such as droughts and soil erosion. This calls for out-of-the-box thinking to preserve adequate growth environments. The combination of precise mineral nutrition and biostimulants, for instance, support takes care of plant growth needs while improving the plant’s overall performance and the soil’s ability to support growth.
There are many fertilizers manufacturing plants in the world.
What makes Haifa Group special and sets you apart from them?
Haifa Group is a leading supplier of specialty solutions integrated with fertilizers – premium products with high added value, composed of pure plant nutrients only integrated with know-how and technology. These products, designed for advanced application methods are the basis and a must for precision plant nutrition. Thus, our main production facility, located in the south of Israel, manufactures potassium nitrate, the ideal source of potassium for plants, and other water-soluble fertilizers for Nutrigation and foliar application. Our plant in Lunel (France) produces controlled release fertilizers that offer an outstanding nutrient use efficiency, and the plant in Canada produces super-premium soluble fertilizers, used mainly in hydroponic systems.
These products, along with profound agronomical knowledge and the support of decision-making technologies, enable us provide growers with nutritional solutions suited to specific growth conditions.
What is Haifa’s role in the global efforts to achieve Precision Agriculture?
Precision agriculture, by its definition, aims to meet the precise needs of the plant, responding to the actual situation in the field. Haifa’ nutritional solutions are designed for optimal match with the plant’s needs: with fertigation, foliar sprays and controlled release fertilizers, nutrition is supplied at precise composition, rate, timing and place, not only ensuring optimal growth, but also maximizing nutrient use efficiency and preventing losses. Our digital tools help the grower follow the nutritional needs as they change along the season, and the innovative Croptune™ app enables real-time monitoring of nutritional status in the field, so the grower knows immediately if there’s a need for any corrective nutrition.
Does Haifa Group offer agronomical knowledge to growers worldwide?
Knowledge sharing is one of the bases in Haifa’s DNA. Our nutritional solutions lean on knowledge gained over decades. Understanding that this knowledge is essential for growers to enable them to get the full benefits of these solutions, we dedicate a lot of thought and resources to the creation of knowledge-sharing platforms. We deliver our knowledge through live meetings and by means of various digital tools. The Haifa NutriNet™ software, for instance, is a powerful tool for detailed planning and management of Nutrigation™ programs, which is available for growers on-line, at any time, and free of charge.
Other mobile apps and expert software that we created help growers apply plant nutrition more efficiently.
It is known that the fertilizer industry is wasteful and polluting. Are you any different?
The nutritional solutions we create are evaluated not only by the yield results they bring, but also by indices of NUE (nutrient use efficiency). With careful consideration of overall growth conditions along with the plant needs, we maximize the impact of the applied nutrients, getting more yield with reduced application rates, and preventing wastes.
How do you tackle the issue of global warming? How do you act to protect the environment?
The climate crisis imposes a big challenge on agriculture, as crops are exposed to new, and often extreme conditions that interfere with growth and yield production, with no ability to adapt.
Haifa provides products that facilitate better uptake of nutrients and improve growth under such conditions, and moreover – improve the plant’s resilience towards the stresses that unfavored conditions impose – drought, salinity, heat and others. The development of these products is based on through understanding of plant physiology, extensive R&D, and continuous field work.
How was the company founded?
Haifa Group, formerly known as “Haifa Chemicals Ltd.”, was founded in 1966 by the Israeli government to leverage natural Israeli resources of potash from the Dead Sea and phosphate rock found in the Negev region. The production process was based on an Israeli invention, that made the company world pioneer in the industrial production of potassium nitrate. While building and running the plant, Haifa developed the agricultural applications of potassium nitrate and introduced the innovative fertilizer to the market, first in Israel and soon afterwards – worldwide. During the ’70s, Haifa developed whole line soluble fertilizers, covering the entire range of plant nutrients. With extensive presence in the field, Haifa promoted the application of these fertilizers by the highly efficient methods of fertigation and foliar sprays. In the ‘80s, Haifa added another range of specialty products to its portfolio – controlled release fertilizers, the cutting edge of plant nutrition technologies.
How do you see Haifa Group’s future?
We always remember that we are dealing with the very basic needs of life, namely food. So, there’s no doubt about the necessity of our products. However, we are bound to provide them in a way which is beneficial for the crop and the grower, and suitable for the environment.
Haifa’s key mission is to create highly effective plant nutrition solutions for farmers. This may sound simple, but in a rapidly changing world, fulfilling the mission requires an ability to improve continuously, address new challenges, adopt new technologies and be always proactive. Taking this down-to-earth, these days Haifa makes investments to expand production and to ensure that it complies with strictest environmental requirements, and from the application side – we develop new products, practices and tools for highly efficient and sustainable plant nutrition.
Thus, and with the growing need for agricultural crops and the expanding constraints on agriculture – the demand for Haifa’s solutions will expand – and so will our ability to meet these demands. Understanding that future agriculture will be different than what we know today, we are working on development of solutions for new growth environments. In this regard, we were proud to pioneer the future, taking part in a synthetic biology trial to grow chickpeas, a genuine superfood, aboard the International Space Station!