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Indian farmers benefit from agricultural ties with Israel
The Indo Israel agriculture project (IIAP) was initiated in 2008 to establish centres of excellence to share Israeli technology and know-how to help Indian farmers.

Israeli farm technology has helped farmers in about 500 acres to switch to vegetables and floriculture.

Israel is quietly intensifying its cooperation with Indian agriculture, helping farmers multiply their income with better practices, yields and choosing the right  crops or vegetables in a success story that is boosting bilateral ties that have strengthened under Mr. Narendra Modi's government. 

Farmers are already reporting successes in places such as Haryana, where Israeli farm technology has helped farmers in about 500 acres to switch to vegetables and floriculture. Thy are making much more money and the farms are gaining from diversification. 

Manoj Bhatia's income has multiplied tenfold by planting vegetables in polyhouses under controlled conditions. "I earn a net profit of Rs 7-8 lakh per year from vegetables grown in polyhouses. By growing wheat and rice I earned Rs 70,000 to Rs 1 lakh only," said Bhatia, a farmer from village Mohiuddinpur in Karnal district. He cultivates vegetables on 30 acres including 3 acres in polyhouses. He moved out of commercial wheat and rice planting two years ago. 

Israeli expertise has reached farmers from Haryana to Maharashtra with nine demonstration farms already operating and another 20 in the pipeline. Dan Alluf, Counselor, International Development cooperation, Science and Agriculture, Embassy of Israel in India said more demonstration farms are being added in the first two phases of the plan. "In our phase-3, (2015-18) we will plan along with the National Horticulture Mission and  Indian agriculture ministry, to grow in both scale and fields of activity, he said, adding that cooperation would extend to satellite imaging and geographic information systems. "Apart from agro technical knowledge we have business management approach also, on how do you manage farm. After harvest how you market the produce. So, we are exploring that maybe we can get farmers together who have capital to invest in packing house, trucks, cold chain and marketing," 

Farmers have gained enormously. "I have started to dream big and different. I now want to use solar power for irrigation, as electricity is a big challenge and also use coco pits rather than the deteriorating soil for planting," says Arun Kumar from village Maloli village in Rai tehsil of Sonepat. 

His life changed after visiting the centre of excellence in Karnal district. "I already had drip irrigation and was planning to set up a polyhouse. The centre however, opened a can of knowledge for us from better utilization of irrigation, fertilizer, farm machinery, managing data, training on sowing, harvesting and marketing on a regular basis," says Kumar who now has 6 poly houses. 

The Indo Israel agriculture project (IIAP) initiated in 2008 operates through centres of excellence that aim to help horticulture with crop diversity, productivity and recourse use efficiency by implementing Israeli technology and know-how. Apart from horticulture crops, centres for cut flower and seed production, bee keeping and dairy have also come up in the country. 

Haryana, Maharashtra and Rajasthan have been the most active in contacting the National Horticulture Mission and giving a detailed project report on the establishment of the centres. The centres of excellence are currently present in 10 states including Bihar, Gujarat, Karnataka, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal. "We might look at opening centres in the north eastern states apart from Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh in our next phase," said Alluf. 

Agriculture scientists say the centres are self sustaining. "Annually we generate a revenue of Rs 4.5 crore from the 16 acre land by selling vegetables and seedling," says Satyender Yadav. head of vegetable cluster and center of Excellence at Karnal. The centre annually sells 6 million seedling to farmers in the 21 districts of the state. Farmers says that the cost of Rs 5-6 per seedling did not pinch as quality seedling insured 50% yield production. 

The farm centre was earlier also supplying 4-5 tonnes vegetables per day including cucumber, coloured capsicum, tomatoes, brinjals to Easy Day, Reliance, Mother Dairy. "We are now unable to meet retailers demand as everything was being sold at farm gate," says Yadav. 

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